Being inside an installation by Sarah Sze is a dizzying experience. A plenitude of objects surrounds you, directing interaction and movements. Elements are either enormous or miniscule. The large things read as utilitarian supports for the small and ornamental. Nothing is midsized except the viewer, suspended at the center of the scale. Thus it may seem strange that Sze would want to work within the middling size and two dimensions of the print.
In her new work, Evening, we see the front and back coversheets from the January 1, 2014, New York Times. The photographs in this digitally printed facsimile have been cut away to reveal the dark blues of a night sky screenprint beneath. The top and bottom edges are lasercut to resemble the jagged fringe of the actual newspaper. The layering and removal of material makes Evening read less as an image of a newspaper and more as a sculptural copy of one. At first glance, Evening appears to dispense the range of dimensions that is so significant in Sze’s installations, but prolonged looking makes clear that Sze is using representation here to accomplish what her sculptural work does through physical size.
It’s a gross understatement to remark that the night sky is vast; the expanse of planets, stars and galaxies has a way of making a person feel very small indeed. Framed as small photographic fragments in Sze’s print, the magnitude of these things is severely warped: distances of light years are compressed into mere inches. A similar thing happens with the columns of reprinted text. The articles report on local events as well as those wide geopolitical consequences such as the escalating violence in South Sudan. The equilibrium suggested by the shared type size is at odds with the proximity bias of a reader’s attention: a story on New York state gun laws is likely to loom larger in the mind of a New Yorker than one on a distant conflict, however critical. The cosmic and the handheld oscillate back and forth, and once again, we observe from the center, the final arbiters.