Arriving at the ‘T’ Space Gallery in the wooded “T” Space preserve near Rhinebeck, one could easily miss the small path from the rise of the small dirt parking area to the gallery. A small sign off the deserted road doesn’t so much announce as hint at the gallery, and the feeling as one exits one’s car and scans the surrounding forest is of suspended credulousness. What lies beyond?
But there is the path — a path. Once one has taken a few steps the gallery seems magically to appear: an open door framing a white square of space occupied by a single art piece, a black monolith consisting of a half-circle suspended over a triangle whose symmetrical halves rest mountain-like on the floor. The luminous, naturally lit interior vividly asserts itself before you notice the box-like wooden exterior walls that rise from the wooden walkway and enclose it, suspended and barely visible within the deep shade of the forest.
The striking piece within, whose black double arc looms above you as you approach, enhances the feeling of mystical encounter, not quite of this world.
Indeed, the sculpture seems comprised of contradictions. The solid shapes of a suspended quarter-circle along the top and the floor-resting triangle opposite it are mirrored by identical shapes outlined in space by structural steel and wooden elements. There’s an indeterminacy to its geometry — a sense of the provisional, as of a shelter that could be folded up and transported on a journey. The vertical iron supports of the half-circle atop the black steel rectilinear base suggesting bars read as linear elements — roughly as high as a standing human — map out a closet-sized precinct which breaks the modernist orthodoxy of purely abstract forms by relating to the human body.
That half-mountain triangle obstructs as it rises. Viewed sideways, the two solid shapes are revealed hollowed out and sliced down the middle by a line of pure space. The piece could be read as a two-legged figure emerging from a cage, though nothing in its language of wood and steel shapes should be read as literal narrative.
It also strikes one as a kind of sign. The arched half-circle and steel supports could be read as a hieroglyph. Its rounded form recalls the painted headdresses of ancient Egyptians, the barrel vaults of an ancient Roman bathhouse, or a jazzy dance step conveyed by the syncopated interchange of solids and voids.
This piece by Torkwase Dyson, entitled Bird and Lava, is the centerpiece of her solo show at the gallery, on display through June 9. Dyson, based in Beacon, has recently had critically acclaimed solo exhibitions at Pace London and Pace New York and has also shown at the biennials Desert X and the Sharjah Biennial.
The “T” Space press release describes the show, also entitled “Bird and Lava,” as the third part of the artist’s two concurrent exhibitions in St. Louis, including a large-scale sculpture displayed outdoors as part of the city’s public art triennial, which is depicted in the accompanying catalog. The catalog also includes several poems by Dyson, one of which, entitled Bird and Lava, reads as follows: “I am certain that the beauty in black/indeterminancy, from sound to science, from/architecture to migration, will continue to guide/our solutions to climate and form. Forms that/are deeply spatial, generous, and haunting. In/this moment of environmental precarity, we will/need to be both liquid and mountains,/bird and lava.”
The poem elucidates the artist’s exploration of Blackness as it relates to histories of oppression and liberation. The work is intended as a metaphor for natural forces, for systems and infrastructure embedded in the history of colonization and industrialism, for their impact on the environment, and for art-making itself as a kind of statement and erasure, struggle and release.
Three smaller pieces are on display In the upstairs loft. Architect Steven Holl, who established “T” Space in 2010 with the help of his foundation, designed the 750-square-foot building so that a portion of the open space is always hidden from view.
The two wall-hung pieces have textured, burnished surfaces of graphite which absorb and reflect light in such a way that they seem bathed in moonlight, the ghostly light of night. In one, a circle carved out of the surface is divided down the middle by a black cotton thread suspended from the top and bottom of the rectangular piece. Its shape, more conventionally related to the sun and moon, is defined here as a void, as though it were a trace, a memory, a well or literal holder.
The second piece consists of a drawing in white of an arched architectural form whose horizontal lines along the top suggest an ancient Egyptian headdress, even as the lines are ruled as though for an architectural drawing.
The third piece, a freestanding sculpture positioned in a floor-to-ceiling window, consists of a black half-circle of wood supported on a glass and steel base. A piece of blue glass is inserted into a notch at the bottom of the half-circle at eye height, suggesting a kind of novel viewfinder. The piece is entitled Black Scale, a Revolution — like the large piece on the ground floor, it was designed especially for the space — suggests the invitation to a change of view is not merely literal.
Dyson’s work is an appropriate embodiment of “T” Space’s mission to foster a cross-pollination of architecture, the arts and ecology to revitalize the unity of humanity and nature.
“Bird and Lava” will be followed from July 16 through August 20 by an exhibition of Ann Hamilton’s large-scale mixed-media pieces incorporating cloth, texts, and animal products. “T” Space, located at 125-1/2 Round Lake Road in Rhinebeck, is open throughout the summer from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays or by appointment.
Ninety-minute tours of the campus, including a new archives building containing 1200 models of Steven Holl’s buildings and a sculpture trail, can be booked by emailing email@example.com.