Kevin Beasley: A view of a landscape at Whitney Museum of American Art, December 15, 2018 – March 10, 2019

“Kevin Beasley (b. 1985, Lynchburg, VA) engages with the legacy of the American South through a new installation that centers on a cotton gin motor from Maplesville, Alabama. In operation from 1940 to 1973, the motor powered the gins that separated cotton seeds from fiber. Here, the New York-based artist uses it to generate sound as if it were a musical instrument, creating space for visual and aural contemplation. Through the use of customized microphones, soundproofing, and audio hardware, the installation divorces the physical motor from the noises it produces, enabling visitors to experience sight and sound as distinct. As an immersive experience, the work serves as a meditation on history, land, race, and labor. This is Beasley’s first solo exhibition at a New York museum, and his most ambitious work to date.” — Whitney Museum

“The cotton gin, invented by Eli Whitney in 1793, increased the number of slaves by over 70%, deepening the trauma for Black folks in America. As the invention evolved and emancipation was declared, Black people have been working to reconcile our relationship to class, labor, race, and human rights within the structure of laws,” said Kevin Beasley.” For me, this exhibition embodies a continued reconciliation that can extend to the broader public. Are we reflecting on this history collectively? And are we taking the necessary steps to generate a fresh approach and change to systemic issues that persist today?” 

Photographs by Corrado Serra. 

A view of a landscape. A cotton gin motor, 2012-18. Collection of the artist. Courtesy Casey Kaplan, New York

A view of a landscape. A cotton gin motor (detail)

A view of a landscape. A cotton gin motor (detail)

Left: The Reunion, 2018. Right: Campus, 2018. Collection of the artist. Courtesy Casey Kaplan, New York

Left: Campus, 2018. Right: The Acquisition, 2018. Collection of the artist. Courtesy Casey Kaplan, New York

Left: Campus, 2018. Right: The Acquisition, 2018. Collection of the artist. Courtesy Casey Kaplan, New York

The Acquisition, 2018. Collection of the artist. Courtesy Casey Kaplan, New York

The Acquisition (detail), 2018

Kevin Beasley in the Whitney Museum, 2018. The Reunion (detail) in the background

“Kevin has been dreaming about this project for over seven years,” says Christopher Y. Lew, the Nancy and Fred Poses Curator, who organized the exhibition. “It’s an honor to help realize his most ambitious work to date at the Whitney. The work is truly of epic proportions. It re-animates an object that gives voice to the deep and recent pasts as well as our contemporary moment.”

Kevin Beasley: A view of a landscape is part of the Whitney’s emerging artists program. It is organized by Christopher Y. Lew, Nancy and Fred Poses Curator, with Ambika Trasi, curatorial assistant.