Betye Saar: Black Doll Blues @ Roberts Projects, Los Angeles
Those lucky enough to have read or seen a conversation with the 95-year-old Betye Saar, the esteemed American assemblage artist, have experienced the transcendency of her words. As she observed a few years ago, “It may not be possible to convey to someone else the mysterious transforming gifts by which dreams, memory, and experience become art. But I like to think that I can try.” There is so much wisdom in this perception that speaks to the complexity of creativity, including the lifelong desire to make and what fuels that visionary impulse. Saar is often referred to as a legend, and she earns that description by how she continues to think about art in an original and provocative way.
Betye Saar: Black Doll Blues, on view this fall at Roberts Projects in Los Angeles, brings together her decades-long process of addressing underrepresented manifestations of Black America through dolls and assemblage. This particular exhibition will also feature a series of new watercolor works on paper. As the gallery notes, “For over six decades, Saar has created work that explores the social, political, and economic underpinnings of America’s collective memory.” Much of this stems from her works featuring Black dolls from her personal archive. In musing that, “Every object has a story,” she has made prodigious works of subversion and illumination that qualify her as one of the ultimate pioneers of the assemblage movement. Her pieces represent a decades-long socially active practice in fine art, auguring the conversations we have today about race, identity and history, each more than rediscovery, but as poignant blueprints for complex challenges to the status quo. That her work is not done affirms the ways we look at our legacies and traditions, and the rituals by which we continue to challenge our collective norms. —Evan Pricco