Taking Space: Contemporary Women Artists and the Politics of Scale invites viewers to consider how space, size, scale, and repetition can be interpreted as political gestures in the practices of many women artists. Inspired by a 2021 exhibition at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA), Taking Space features 10 works from that original show by Mequitta Ahuja, Jennifer Bartlett, Eiko Fan, Hope Gangloff, Clarity Haynes, Elizabeth Murray, Ana Vizcarra Rankin, Alyson Shotz, Mickalene Thomas, and Dyani Whitehawk. In addition to these loans from PAFA that form the core of the exhibition, Taking Space features 13 works from the collection of the Montclair Art Museum.
Together these works reveal the varied approaches of women artists for whom space is a critical feature of their work, whether they occupy significant space on walls or engage three-dimensionally with gallery spaces through sculpture and installation. Also addressed is the visual power of seriality and repetition as spatial visual practices, as well as the diverse methods of asserting and reclaiming the spaces of women’s bodies.
The conceptual framework of this show provides a rare opportunity for visitors to engage with one of the most significant works in MAM’s permanent collection: Kara Walker’s cut-paper silhouette work entitled Virginia’s Lynch Mob (1998)—last on view at the Montclair Art Museum in 2018. This monumental work exemplifies the central tenets of Taking Space, which invites dialogues across history, generations, geographies, and media, as well as around the political impulses of these female artists who claim intellectual and physical spaces.