detail of La Pia de' Tolomei, 1868–1880 by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Forms of Thought

Samuel H. Kress Foundation Gallery, 407

“I entitle transcendental all knowledge which is occupied not so much with objects as the mode of our knowledge of objects…”

Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason

In concert with the adjacent exhibition This Land, Forms of Thought investigates the realm of intangible ideas made manifest by artists throughout time and across cultures. Whereas This Land focuses on the secular, Forms of Thought delves into artwork often characterized as “religious,” “sacred,” or “transcendent.”

Through a progression of alcoves, the viewer encounters artists’ attempts to render the formless: the intensity of love and longing, the metaphysical balance of yin and yang, the perception of light, the appearance of celestial bodies, and the architecture of unseen worlds. Rather than resolving spiritual questions, the exhibition seeks to pose them, leaving it up to the viewer to explore Kant’s notion of transcendental knowledge attained through our perception of objects.

Selected images