Holding Space: Dyani White Hawk at the Whitney Biennial

Dyani White Hawk, Wopila | Lineage (2021). Photo: Ben Davis

“These are times of deep uneasiness with power structures, including those found in museums, even as Black artists, Indigenous artists, queer and trans artists, are being foregrounded at unprecedented levels,” writes Artnet News’s Ben Davis in his review of the 2022 Whitney Biennial. “So, you get a rhetoric of difficulty, of holding space but also retreating from legibility.”

He singles out works shrouded in mystery, featuring noticeable absences, or utilizing abstraction—a category that includes Dyani White Hawk, whose Wopila | Lineage (2021) is constructed from more than a half-million glass beads. “It’s nonsense to think that the cultural background of Jackson Pollock or Frank Stella or any of the other big US white guy painters wasn’t always present as part of how people interpreted what they did,” he writes. “It was just so securely at the center that no one bothered to interpret it.”

He continues:

A lot is hidden in that historical silence: As a matter of fact, Dyani White Hawk’s beautifully beaded shimmering geometry, a highlight in this Biennial, is intimately engaged with Lakota craft traditions but also explicitly presented as a reminder of how the heavies of mid-century Abstract Expressionism took inspiration from Native American art.