Between the Waters

Mar 9–July 22, 2018

This exhibition brings together artists from across the United States—Carolina Caycedo, Demian DinéYazhi´ with Ginger Dunnill, Torkwase Dyson, Cy Gavin, Lena Henke, and Erin Jane Nelson—whose work responds to the precarious state of the environment through a personal lens. Experimenting with form and narrative in painting, video, and sculpture, these artists address how ideology—as much as technology, industry, and architecture—impacts all living things.

Though each contends with facts or histories that are real and observable, none takes a documentary approach. Rather, these artists adopt a highly subjective position, embracing emotion, intuition, spirituality, and myth to help understand our intrinsic place within the “natural” world. They share the sense that scientific, or “rational,” thought can reinforce a limited view of our planet and its inhabitants—one that assumes they can and should be controlled.

The works on view present a wide range of subjects, from the controversial transformation of New York in the mid-twentieth century by city official Robert Moses to the affirmation of a vital Indigenous presence in the face of institutionalized colonialism. They draw from distinct visual traditions, including Southern handcraft, sixteenth-century architecture, history painting, and hard-edge abstraction. Through their varied interests and formal approaches, all of these artists assert the relevance of individual experience and perspective to address concerns that are global in scale and effect. In the words of artist Torkwase Dyson, this exhibition is not just about “the way we connect...but understanding also the waters that are between us.”

The exhibition is organized by Elisabeth Sherman, assistant curator, and Margaret Kross, curatorial assistant.

Major support for Between the Waters is provided by John R. Eckel, Jr. Foundation.

This exhibition is part of the Whitney’s emerging artists program, sponsored by

Generous support is provided by Jackson Tang.

Lena Henke


Dead Horse Bay is part of Lena Henke’s body of work exploring the transformative and destructive effect that city planner Robert Moses (1888–1981) had on New York in the mid-twentieth century. Superimposing the Manhattan cityscape onto a tombstone-like plinth shaped as a horse’s head, Henke alludes to Brooklyn’s Dead Horse Bay, named for the animal carcasses processed in manufacturing plants there. Later a landfill, Moses used the site during construction of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway to dispose of the remains of homes that had stood in the highway’s path, as well as the personal items of those forced to leave. Henke’s landscape, which she sees as a self-portrait, also includes her studio; miniatures of her own sculptures; Las Pozas, a surrealistic garden in Mexico; and the fantastical Sacro Bosco, built in northern Italy in the sixteenth century. By scaling down and replicating monomaniacal visions of place, Henke reflects on the way that powerful individuals, often men, can radically alter geography—affecting the lives and livelihoods of thousands.


Screenshot of a webchat.

Between the Waters Roundtable

Between the Waters is about individual voices each speaking on a series of relationships that could be described as ecological: between the land, the forms and ways of life that exist on the land, and the systems of use or governance of the land. The artists whose work is included in the exhibition—Carolina Caycedo, Demian DinéYazhi´ with Ginger Dunhill, Torkwase Dyson, Cy Gavin, Lena Henke, and Erin Jane Nelson—assert that our personal beliefs and ideological values cannot be separated from the material reality of a changing Earth. As they describe in this roundtable discussion, they also resist the categorical terminology and methodologies of rational systems of thought, instead looking to emotion and spirituality as alternative methods to consider the relationship between the natural world and ourselves, in which we are neither in control nor completely eclipsed, neither anthropocentric nor post-human.

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