A conversation with Howardena Pindell and artists Torkwase Dyson, Samuel Levi Jones, and Julie Mehretu, moderated by Adeze Wilford

How to watch

This video is a recording of the free online conversation that took place via Zoom on December 3, 2020. 

About this conversation

Howardena Pindell has inspired several generations of artists by engaging with a form of abstraction that is rooted firmly in social reality and creating new worlds of possibility and connection. In conjunction with the exhibition Howardena Pindell: Rope/Fire/Water, a group of artists, including Torkwase Dyson, Samuel Levi Jones, and Julie Mehretu, speak with Pindell about their own artistic practices and their connections to Pindell’s expansive body of work. The conversation will be moderated by the exhibition’s curator, Adeze Wilford.

As a groundbreaking artist, curator, critic, educator, and activist, Howardena Pindell has influenced generations of people working in those fields. The Pindell’s Legacy series of online conversations celebrates the ways colleagues from different fields have felt the artist’s impact both personally and professionally.

The Shed has invited a broad roster of artists, thinkers, activists, and representatives of other cultural organizations to celebrate the artist’s pioneering, multifaceted work via public programs that accompany the exhibition. Together, these participants will contextualize Pindell’s work in this critical moment in US history, reflecting on the past and thinking critically about the present, with the goal of reimagining and building new, collective paths to a radically equitable future.


This event will include closed captions.


The artist Howardena Pindell sitting in front of one of her painting "Nautilus #1", a curvilinear, yellow, abstract canvas. Pindell wears a colorful cardigan over a dark-colored shirt.
Photo: Nathan Keay.
Howardena Pindell
The artist Torkwase Dyson in a black dress with a wide scarf wrapped around her shoulders. Dyson stands in front of artworks hanging on the wall behind her.
Photo: Gabe Souza.
Torkwase Dyson
A photo of the artist Samuel Levi Jones against a white background. Jones is smiling, wearing glasses and a gray half-zip sweater.
Courtesy the artist.
Samuel Levi Jones
A photo of the artist Julie Mehretu smiling against a blurry gray and white background. Mehretu wears a blue shirt and light falls on the right side of her face.
Photo: Teju Cole.
Julie Mehretu
A photo of Shed assistant curator Adeze Wilford in three-quarters view. She is wearing a floral-print blouse.
Courtesy Adeze Wilford.
Adeze Wilford
Howardena Pindell
Born in Philadelphia in 1943, Howardena Pindell studied painting at Boston University and Yale University. She then worked for 12 years at the Museum of Modern Art (1967 – 79) as an exhibition assistant, an assistant curator in the Department of National and International Traveling Exhibitions, and finally as an associate curator and acting director in the Department of Prints and Illustrated Books. In 1979, she began teaching at the State University of New York, Stony Brook where she is now a distinguished professor. In her work, Pindell often employs lengthy, metaphorical processes of destruction / reconstruction, addressing social issues of homelessness, AIDS, war, genocide, sexism, xenophobia, and apartheid. Pindell’s work has been featured in many landmark museum exhibitions and is in the permanent collections of major international museums. Most recently, Pindell’s work was the subject of the retrospective Howardena Pindell: What Remains to Be Seen (2018, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago).
Torkwase Dyson
Torkwase Dyson describes herself as a painter working across multiple mediums to explore the continuity between ecology, infrastructure, and architecture. Dyson was born in Chicago and spent her developmental years between North Carolina and Mississippi. Traversing these geographies helped develop formal concerns of compositions, movement, precarity, distance, and scale. For Dyson, addressing these conceptual and formal concerns is a poetic affirmation of humanity and resistance. Dyson received a BA from Tougaloo College in 1996, a BFA from Virginia Commonwealth University in 1999, and an MFA from Yale School of Art in painting/printmaking in 2003. Her work has been presented at the Sharjah Biennial in addition to participating in group exhibitions at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Museum of Modern Art. Dyson has had solo exhibitions at Colby College Museum of Art, Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, and New Orleans Museum of Art.
Samuel Levi Jones
Samuel Levi Jones is inspired by questions of authority, representation, and recorded history. His ongoing practice centers on physically undoing objects associated with systems of power and control. Jones often rearranges deconstructed books into grid-like compositions that expose their flaws and question their assumed command of the truth. Museum exhibitions include Left of Center at the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields, Indiana; Infinite Blue at the Brooklyn Museum; Solidary & Solitary: The Joyner/Guiffrida Collection at the Smart Museum at the University of Chicago; and Unbound at the Studio Museum in Harlem. His work can be found in museum and public collections such as the Chazen Museum of Art, University of Wisconsin – Madison; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Rubell Family Collection, Florida; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Studio Museum in Harlem; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Jones was born in Marion, Indiana, in 1978, and now lives and works between Chicago and Indianapolis, Indiana.
Julie Mehretu
Julie Mehretu was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 1970 and lives and works in Berlin and New York City. She received a master’s of fine art with honors from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1997, a bachelor’s from Kalamazoo College in 1992, and studied at University Cheik Anta Diop in Dakar, Senegal. Mehretu is a recipient of many awards, including the MacArthur Award (2005), the American Art Award granted by the Whitney Museum of American Art (2005), the 2002 Penny McCall Award, the Rhode Island School of Design Alumni Council Artistic Achievement Award (2006), and the Berlin Prize: Guna S. Mundheim Fellowship at the American Academy in Berlin (2007). She has shown extensively in international and national exhibitions.
Adeze Wilford
Adeze Wilford is an assistant curator at The Shed. She was an inaugural joint curatorial fellow at the Studio Museum in Harlem and the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). She organized Vernacular Interior at Hales Gallery in 2019 and Excerpt (2017) at the Studio Museum, along with the film series “Black Intimacy” (2017) at MoMA. Other curatorial projects include Harlem Postcards (2016/2017) and Color in Shadow, the 2016 “Expanding the Walls” exhibition at the Studio Museum. She has contributed research and essays to catalogues and magazines, including Black Refractions, Fictions, and Young, Gifted and Black. Prior to this, Wilford was the public programs and community engagement assistant at the Studio Museum. She graduated from Northwestern University with a BA in art history and African American studies.
In The Works

Thank you to our partners

Major Support for The Shed’s Public Programs and Howardena Pindell: Rope/Fire/Water is provided by
Additional support is provided, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.
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