(all works Untitled, 2017)
Torkwase Dyson considers spatial relations an urgent question both historically and in the present day. Through abstract paintings, Dyson grapples with ways space is perceived and negotiated particularly by black and brown bodies. Explorations of how the body unifies, balances, and arranges itself to move through natural and built environments become both expressive and discursive structures within the work.
Dyson builds the paintings slowly, accumulating washes and configuring minimal geometric elements through a process of improvisation and reflection. The paint-handling producing various surfaces using brushwork and other tools is made poetic by a juxtaposition of dense marks and scored, diagrammatic lines. This compositional rigor imbues the works with an architectural presence and optical gravity.
In Dyson’s work the residue of grids and the evidence of hand moving in space creates a productive tension. This precarious arrangement along with subtle use of atmospheric color, contour lines, scale shifts in the paintings invite the eye to consider the conceptual and corporeal knowledge of space in real time.
Torkwase Dyson was born in Chicago Illinois, and spent her developmental years between North Carolina and Mississippi. Traversing these regions helped develop a fundamental sensitivity towards urban development, southern landscape and black spatial justice. During her years at Tougaloo College where she majored in Sociology and double minored in Social Work and Fine Art, she began to examine the spatial dynamics of black history and how these histories where connected geographically. Over the next 10 years, Dyson traveled to Africa and South and Central America to strategize with communities of color on ways to attain resource equality. During this time she earned her Bachelors in Fine Arts in Painting from Virginia Commonwealth University and her Masters in Fine Arts in Painting from Yale School of Art. In 2016 Dyson designed and built Studio South Zero (SSZ) a solar-powered mobile studio where the context of nomadicity became the framework for learning and making art about the environment. It was traveling with SSZ that inspired her experimental project The Wynter-Wells Drawing School for Environmental Liberation where she explores contemporary theorizations of space, architecture and the infrastructure of extraction economies.
Though working through multiple mediums, Torkwase Dyson describes herself as a painter who uses distilled geometric abstraction to create an idiosyncratic language that is both diagrammatic and expressive. The works are deconstructions of natural and built environments that consider how individuals negotiate and negate various types of systems and spatial order. Dyson’s work has been exhibited at the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Whitney Museum of American Art, The Drawing Center, the Corcoran College of Art and Design, the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education, and the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art. Dyson has been awarded the Graham Nancy Graves Grant for Visual Artists, Visiting Artist grant to the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University, and the Culture Push Fellowship for Utopian Practices. Fellowships include, Graham Foundation, Eyebeam Art,Technology Center Fellowship, and the FSP/Jerome Fellowship. Dyson’s work has also been supported by, Lower Manhattan Cultural Center, The Laundromat Projects, the Green Festival of New York, the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, the Mural Arts Program of Philadelphia, The Kitchen, and the Rebuild Foundation. In 2016 Dyson was elected to the board of the Architecture League of New York as Vice President of Visual Arts. Torkwase is now based in Jersey City, NJ and is represented by Rhona Hoffman Gallery in Chicago, and Davidson Contemporary in New York (text website artist)