How do artists define space? Is it contained within a claustrophobic interior or unbounded by a panoramic vista? Is it three-dimensional or flattened and abstract? Tangible or elusive? Neutral or charged? And what of the space within our own minds?
The foundational challenge of space—how to define it, render it, and manage its infinite meanings—has occupied American artists in myriad ways. While some early Americans struggled to master European models of perspective via transatlantic correspondence, others worked outside the Academy, relying on communal knowledge to construct powerful and imaginative spaces. In the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, modern and contemporary artists pushed definitions of space into fantastic and experimental realms. Infinite Spaces: Rediscovering PAFA’s Permanent Collection, uses this artistic conundrum as its point of departure. Inspired by the spatial interventions of Philadelphia’s recent Monument Lab initiative, Infinite Spaces explores how artists have engaged space throughout the history of American art, from the eighteenth century to the present day.
Moving through five spaces—urban, environmental, interior, psychological, and fantastical—visitors will have the opportunity to explore space both as an artistic element and a powerful signifier of public and personal meaning. Placing historic works in conversation with modern and contemporary works, Infinite Spaces highlights new acquisitions and rarely seen objects from PAFA’s historic collection of American art in our Fisher Brooks Gallery, as well as throughout our Samuel M. V. Hamilton and Historic Landmark buildings.