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Torkwase Dyson

Torkwase Dyson and the Need to be Both Bird and Lava

At its new location in East Hampton, NY, Pace Gallery is presenting new work by Torkwase Dyson in “Studies for Bird and Lava.” The New York-based artist debuts 11 new paintings and drawings, made during a year in residency at Wexner Center for Arts.

Through experimentation in animation, shapes, and scale Dyson questions the idea of blackness in symbiosis with historical and existing shapes. This study asks, “If blackness is already an architectonic developed out of liquidity (ocean), can the work embody this phenomenon and offer sensation (sensoria) at the register of liberation?”

Torkwase Dyson Torkwase Dyson, courtesy of Pace Gallery.

Dyson has created a system to represent the story of the enslaved by identifying shapes with people—Anthony Burns (hull=curve), Henry “Box” Brown (box=square), and Harriet Jacobs (garret=triangle). The resulting architectural pieces explore depth, form, and the possibility of resistance in geometries. Layers of wax and ink, graphite, and wood, plunge the viewer into a disturbing, yet liberating experience.

“In this moment of environmental precarity, we will need to be both liquid and mountains, bird and lava. And it is the density of black grace that will always be the thing that keeps us in our own humanity,” said Dyson. “Thinking through the histories of black liberation, these are the victories that fortify my being in the objects I make. It’s time for a new relationship with abstraction, an illegal abstraction developed out of the condition of a new world building toward liberation and revolution.”

Torkwase Dyson Torkwase Dyson, “I Am Everything That Will Save Me (Bird and Lava),” 2020, acrylic and string on wood, 36” diameter, © Torkwase Dyson, courtesy Pace Gallery, Photography by Kris Graves.

“Studies for Bird and Lava” is on view through August 9, 2020.


Torkwase Dyson Torkwase Dyson, “Space as Form: Movement 1 (Bird and Lava),” 2020, acrylic on canvas 40-1/4 × 48 inches, © Torkwase Dyson, courtesy Pace Gallery, Photography by Kris Graves.




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