Whitehot Magazine

May 2010, Shaquille ONeal: Size Does Matter

Size Does Matter, Installation View, FLAG Art Foundation
Photography by Genevieve Hanson, New York


Size Does Matter
Curated by Shaquille O’Neal
The FLAG Art Foundation
545 West 25th ST, 9TH Floor
New York, NY 10001


Shaquille O’Neal was the first pick in the 1992 NBA draft. He was anointed the All-Star Starter and Rookie of the Year in his first season with the Orlando Magic, and led them to their first playoff game after a fifty-win season. His professional reach spans rap albums, television shows and movies, fashioning an athlete with cultural stature as massive as his physical frame. When I was first looped into Shaq’s atmosphere, though, I was unaware of his international superstardom and flagrant personality; I liked him because he was huge. Towering at 5’5” by the time I learned my multiplication tables, I bonded with his height. Size DOES Matter, O’Neal’s current exhibition at FLAG Art Foundation, presents perspectives on size that reveal both humor and sensitivity.

Shaq makes several appearances throughout the exhibition. Despite the enormity of the curator and his celebrity, the pieces for which he is the inspiration tend to be grounded in his flamboyant personality and convivial grin. The smaller works stem from astute observations of reality or bizarre reassessments of space. Maurizio Cattelan’s Untitled (2001) stations two elevator door replicas less than a foot off the floor, transforming the foyer into a questionable, warped space reminiscent of Fraggle Rock. One of the most intriguing of the tiny works is Micro Shaq (2010) by Willard Wigan. Wigan situates the All-Star within the eye of a needle, a whopping testament to concentration and the dramatic potential of extreme scale.

Willard Wigan, Micro Shaq, 2010
Courtesy of the artist and FLAG Art Foundation

The exaggerated nature of the bigger pieces relates to O’Neal’s mythic magnification, though Robert Therrien’s No Title (Table and Six Chairs) (2003), a table and six chairs fashioned for Goliath, would overwhelm even the largest star. Therrien’s Untitled (Stacked Plates) (2006) has a similar effect, augmented by the epic visual sensation of walking about twenty massive, teetering, petal-blue dishes. The most successful of the heftier works translate weighty moments, gigantic expectations. Cindy Sherman’s Untitled Film Still (1978) depicts the artist laying fully dressed in her Sunday’s best on a pristinely-made bed. She stares listlessly at the ceiling, somberly contemplating disappointment or shock as she clutches the duvet. The Kiss (2005), contributed by Ivan Witenstein, exudes confidence and literal fire licking at the heels of young lust, masked by a sunset fade of warm hues.

Overall, the exhibition feels crowded and slightly chaotic, especially on the second floor, where the implications of big and small cross-pollinate without proper room to breathe. The first floor gallery seems to find more favor with Shaq’s perspective as it is inundated with enormous vulnerability. This may be the reason for its heightened intelligibility. Ron Mueck’s Untitled (Big Man) (2000), nervous and insecure, looks toward Richard Phillips’ Michelle Angelo (2010), a damsel of glowing corporeal confidence, blackened eyes, and a towering bust. Tom Friedman’s largeexcedrinbox (2006) would dwarf Mueck’s man in scale but is buried in blur, ironically as distant as Phillips’ poised, groovy corpse. These pieces in particular humanize the mythically towering curator, encapsulating the insecurity, superficiality, and disorientation one is subject to in the wake of such widespread fame.

Size Does Matter, Installation View, FLAG Art Foundation
Photography by Genevieve Hanson, New York

Lynn Maliszewski

Lynn Maliszewski is a freelance writer and aspiring curator/collector residing in New York City. She can be reached at l.malizoo@gmail.com

PHOTO CREDIT: Benjamin Norman (

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