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Torkwase Dyson

Portrait of Eyebeam Research Resident 2014-2016, Torkwase Dyson. Courtesy of the artist.

Date and place of birth
b. 1973, Chicago, IL
Current location
Beacon, NY
Year(s) of residency and/or fellowship
20141516, Research Resident

Torkwase Dyson describes herself as a painter working across multiple mediums to explore the continuity between ecology, infrastructure, and architecture. Dyson’s abstract works are visual and material systems used to construct fusions of surface tension, movement, scale, real, and finite space. With an emphasis on the ways black and brown bodies perceive and negotiate space as information, Dyson looks to spatial liberation strategies from historical and contemporary perspectives, seeking to uncover new understandings of the potential for more livable geographies.

Dyson builds the paintings slowly, accumulating washes, building surface, and configuring minimal geometric elements that lend a productive tension between image and object.  The paint-handling producing various visual qualities using brushwork and other tools is made poetic by a juxtaposition of delicate marks and scored diagrammatic lines. This compositional rigor imbues the works with an architectural presence and optical gravity.

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. 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.

Eyebeam Research Resident (2015)

Dyson was featured in an Eyebeam group exhibition – Reversing Art and Technology: Outside/In

Outside/In showcases the work of Mattia CasalegnoTorkwase Dyson, and Nancy Nowacek.

Lines not only demarcate, they reveal intimacies between that which is bounded and its complement. This exhibition highlights three artists whose work explores the porousness between the outside and inside, by examining how digital and other technological means tend to re-map spaces, both inner and outer. The sculptural installations of Mattia Casalegno, Torkwase Dyson, and Nancy Nowacek diagram the subtle ways these re-mappings occur.

Casalegno builds frames which integrate live webcam exchanges between strangers. They examine radical transformations of social relations in emergent digital platforms. Dyson presents a wall that doubles as a research station, in which she will examine local histories, from Wall Street’s slave market to the Seaport’s trading docks to the Financial District’s banking power. Nowacek creates deconstructions of the built environment. She nestles contemplative screens into arrangements of rough construction materials.

These works by Eyebeam Residents are examples of technology in an expanded sense: they are physical and conceptual tools by which we navigate and ultimately transform our contexts. This show will be followed by an group exhibition Inside/Out, opening mid-November, which further examines the intricate geometries that link technology, culture, and society, focusing on the externalization of that which is hidden.


Eyebeam Research Resident (2016):

Torkwase Dyson was selected as an Eyebeam research resident (2016) in an open call examining collaborative forms of architectural practice, urban presentation, policy engagement, and other forms of meaningful community dialogue. As one of two current Research Residents at Eyebeam, she received a grant of $60,000 to pursue deep-immersion research, in addition to 24/7 access to studio space, state-of-the-art technical facilities, and an active alum community. Unkeeping follows on her previous group presentation with Eyebeam in Fall 2015, Outside/In, which explored physical architecture and digital experience. 

Unkeeping (2016)

Dyson developed “Unkeeping” as a result of her extensive investigations of black spatial matters and her deep interest in journalist Ida B. Wells and Caribbean theorist Sylvia Wynter.

Dyson’s artworks deconstruct natural and built environments that influence environmental and cultural conditions.   In both her established forms of painting, drawing, and sculptures, and long-term architectural project Dyson considers the liminal spaces between un-keeping place and place-making an investigation of spatial and ecological dignity.

Unkeeping surveys two years of Dyson’s research into minimal geometric abstraction as a system used to deepen our understanding of the built and natural environment. This ambitious work spans modular architecture, data visualization, and black spatial matters under the rubric of environmentalism. For the exhibition from March 9–April 12, 2016, she presented drawings, paintings, and sculpture that deconstructs sites such as auction blocks, garrets, lynchings, and sidewalks to reconstruct humanist narratives in their place.

View pictures of the Installation from Eyebeam’s Exhibition of Unkeeping at Industry City



During her tenure at Eyebeam, Dyson built a solar-­powered portable studio, Studio South Zero (SSZ). SSZ is a tiny studio that enables her site-specific research into black environmental politics and geographic identity. She explains, “Running my practice through the lens of nomadicity and autonomy helps me conceive of how un­keeping​  site physically and metaphorically through my paintings is a way to represent more complex human experiences. Traveling with my tiny studio to make drawing or paintings helps me created representations of experiences that make visible their social implications and my own perceptions of them.”

Eyebeam models a new approach to artist-led creation for the public good; we are a non-profit that provides significant professional support and money to exceptional artists for the realization of important ideas that wouldn’t exist otherwise. Nobody else is doing this.

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