In the early twentieth century, inspired by modern science such as Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity, an emerging avant-garde movement sought to expand the “dimensionality” of modern art, engaging with theoretical concepts of time and space to advance bold new forms of creative expression. Dimensionism: Modern Art in the Age of Einstein illuminates the remarkable connections between the scientific and artistic revolutions that shaped some of the most significant works of the time, from Alexander Calder’s kinetic sculptures to Marcel Duchamp’s early experiments with Conceptual art. Others were inspired by emerging research into interstellar and microscopic spaces, while expanding knowledge of quantum mechanics transformed many artists’ views of the world, leading to new approaches to understanding the nature of everyday reality.
The exhibition title derives from the Dimensionist Manifesto—a 1936 proclamation calling for an artistic response to the era’s scientific discoveries, which was signed by many of the artists in the exhibition and reflected the artistic interests of many others on both sides of the Atlantic. Dimensionism brings together rarely seen works by artists such as Joseph Cornell, Barbara Hepworth, Wassily Kandinsky, Helen Lundeberg, Man Ray, André Masson, Roberto Matta, Joan Miró, László Moholy-Nagy, Henry Moore, Isamu Noguchi, Pablo Picasso, Kay Sage, Yves Tanguy, and Dorothea Tanning, along with poetry and other ephemera associated with the Dimensionist movement. This unprecedented exhibition invites visitors to reconsider work by some of the most important artists of the twentieth century in a fresh historical framework that emphasizes their engagement with the world of science—a powerful influence on the trajectory of modern art. By illuminating this forgotten history, Dimensionism reveals that major swaths of avant-garde art can never fully be understood unless contextualized within the social and scientific upheavals that shaped them.