Hiding in Plain Sight

Torkwase Dyson

b. 1973, Chicago, Illinois
Lives and works in Brooklyn, New York

Torkwase Dyson, I Am Everything That Will Save Me #3 (Bird and Lava), 2021, acrylic, string, and steel on wood, 36" (91.4 cm), diameter
Torkwase Dyson, Scale-Scale, 2021, acrylic on canvas, 8' × 6' 4" × 2" (243.8 cm × 193 cm × 5.1 cm)

Torkwase Dyson’s approach to abstraction considers the measurable and spatial conditions of systems of oppression and delves into how Black bodies have occupied those spaces and self-liberated throughout history. Her work also examines geographies and architectures of oppression and liberation, such as waterways, plantations, passageways, underground tunnels. Working in painting, sculpture, installation and performance, Dyson notes that Black Compositional Thought “considers how paths, throughways, architecture, objects, and geographies are composed by black bodies and from these formations it also considers how properties of energy, space, scale, and sound interact as networks of liberation.”

Torkwase Dyson, Distance-Distance, 2021, acrylic on canvas, 8' × 6' 4" × 2" (243.8 cm × 193 cm × 5.1 cm)

Dyson’s three recent works, Scale-Scale (2021), Distance-Distance (2021), and Liquid-Liquid (2021), as well as I Am Everything That Will Save Me #3 (Bird and Lava) (2021), the tondo at the entrance of the exhibition, use shape, line, and plain to create compositions that reference a geometry grounded within the context of the Black experience of resilience and liberation. In contrast to the canonical narrative of abstraction—as told by Western and Eurocentric perspectives—Dyson’s work creates a new foundational position for abstraction emerging from the geometric forms that embody histories of self-liberation through both positive and negative space.

Torkwase Dyson, Liquid-Liquid, 2021, acrylic on canvas, 8' × 6' 4" × 2" (243.8 cm × 193 cm × 5.1 cm)

Throughout Dyson’s practice, spatial architectures such as plantations, houses, hideaway spaces, and passageways, which can be measured, the production of what cannot be measured—such as energies, sounds, and conditions—are sites for artistic investigation and aesthetic emergence.

Torkwase Dyson

Examining environmental racism as well as the history and future of black spatial liberation strategies, Dyson’s works grapple with the ways in which space is perceived and negotiated, particularly by black and brown bodies. In 2019, Dyson’s solo exhibition I Can Drink the Distance was on view at The Cooper Union, New York, and her work was also presented at the Sharjah Biennial.

In addition to participating in group exhibitions at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, Washington, D.C.; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; and California African American Museum, Los Angeles, Dyson has had solo exhibitions and installations at Colby College Museum of Art, Waterville, Maine; Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, Chicago; Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education, Philadelphia; and Suzanne Lemberg Usdan Gallery, Bennington College, Vermont.