Torkwase Dyson: Bird and Lava

March 22, 2023 - July 10, 2023
James M. Kemper Gallery + Video Gallery

Torkwase Dyson’s work engages urgent issues regarding architecture, infrastructure, and environmental justice—bringing them into conversation with historical and contemporary reflections on the agency and brilliance of Black and brown people’s spatial practices. This exhibition presents works from her Bird and Lava series (2020–21). Spanning painting, drawing, and animation, the works on view explore spaces of self-liberation. Dyson employs a compositional system of geometric shapes—squares, trapezoids, and curved lines—as a starting point for this body of work, connecting the shapes to the history of Black resistance and the individuals who traversed geographies of enclosure in the United States to escape slavery.

The works also speak to our contemporary period defined by the social and political impacts of the climate crisis. In the artist’s words: “In this moment of environmental precarity we will need to be both liquid and mountains, bird and lava…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.”

Image credit

Torkwase Dyson (American, b. 1973), A Place Called Dark Black (Bird and Lava), 2020. Acrylic and ink on canvas, 96 x 80 x 2". University purchase, Parsons Fund and Bixby Fund, 2021.