PAFA’s history and prolific collection of American art stretch back to the 18th century. Many works from the country’s earliest and greatest artists call PAFA home. PAFA is equally proud of the contemporary artists it collects.
Infinite Spaces: Rediscovering PAFA’s Permanent Collection highlights new acquisitions of historic, modern and contemporary works in PAFA’s Historic Landmark Building.
PAFA is committed to building a permanent collection which tells an expansive story about the art of America.
On display as part of Infinite Spaces is Din avec la main dans le miroir by Mickalene Thomas. Thomas is known for her use of the figure, specifically African American female models and other powerful women.
The small mixed-media collage actually served as the preparatory piece for the larger collage Din avec la Main Dans le Miroir, which is also in the PAFA permanent collection.
“It’s amazing because you can see on this small scale the things she was working out for the larger composition,” said PAFA curator Jodi Throckmorton.
As the museum’s contemporary curator, Throckmorton is entrusted with overseeing PAFA’s contemporary art exhibition and acquisition programs.
To expand PAFA’s contemporary art collection, Throckmorton is actively trying to acquire more photography for the permanent collection. While the museum has an extensive photography catalog from Thomas Eakins and photographs from Andy Warhol, Throckmorton said the museum has not historically collected a lot of photographs.
I don’t’ see it as just collecting photography or painting. Contemporary art is contemporary art, it's all art,” Throckmorton said. “We are actively trying to bring in more photography to fill out that part of the collection.”
PAFA’s recent acquisition of photographs by Dawoud Bey is part of an effort to not only showcase more photographs in the museum but also better reflect the world we live in.
“Another part that we’re thinking about is that when you walk up the stairs in the Historic Landmark Building the faces that you see are white faces,” she said. “The idea of representation in museums is really important. It’s important for people to come in and see that their lives are a part of an American experience that PAFA is talking about.”
The photographs Mathes Manafee and Cassandra Griffin are part of Bey’s series The Birmingham Project. The portraits symbolically commemorate the six young people whose lives were lost in 1963 in the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.
The subjects in the series represent the ages of the victims at the time of their death and the ages they would be if they were still alive. Throckmorton said the gravity of Bey’s work highlights his importance as an American artist.
“He is one hundred percent one of the most important photographers working in the country, or even internationally.”
Also included in Infinite Spaces is a pair of archival pigment prints by Abelardo Morrell that celebrate the city of Philadelphia.
Camera Obscura: View of Philadelphia from Loews Hotel room 3013 with upside down bed and Camera Obscura: Night View of Philadelphia from the Loews Hotel room 3013 was created while Morrell was in residency at The Fabric Workshop and Museum.
“He’s known for his work with the camera obscura pieces, [which is] essentially shooting through a pinhole,” Throckmorton said. “But what’s really cool about these is that it’s the city of Philadelphia, and it’s amazing.”
Morrell has said these images were a breakthrough for him, as they were his first attempts to capture day and night views from the same point.
Infinite Spaces: Rediscovering PAFA's Permanent Collection is on view July 1st through September 9th, 2018.