Gallery  March 22, 2024  Carlota Gamboa

Betye Saar: Vehicles of Visitation

Courtesy of Roberts Projects

Installation view of 'Betye Saar: New Work' at Roberts Projects

Through the years, Betye Saar has used Los Angeles as her mystic’s salvage yard. The assemblage artist has taken everyday objects— remnants of tin panels, wicker baskets, shards of pottery, empty frames, repurposed photography—and paired them with recognizable figures of visual culture to create new narratives. Continuously unobstructed by age, the 97 year-old Saar returns to Roberts Projects with her latest show, Betye Saar: New Work. The eight pieces on view are featured inside an array of wooden snuff boxes, lined with african effigy’s, carved boats, and deconstructed computer parts.

Saar, whose work was credited by Angela Davis as the catalyst for the black women’s movement, is invested in the dichotomy between found objects and racially marked objects. The circuit board inside A Different Destiny (2024) becomes a visual cue for the cabin within slave ships, as an enclosed statue stands on the opposite side of the pill-box. Another piece, entitled Patterns of Fate (2024), features an octagonal star at the bottom of a fabric-lined Mexican jewelry box, a small microchip placed in the center of it. The patterns of collective and inherited memory weave through the pieces in the show, imbuing the quotidian with a living history.

Courtesy of The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens

Betye Saar, Drifting Toward Twilight, 2023

However, New Work is not the only one of Saar’s exhibitions currently open in Los Angeles. The Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Gardens, located in her native Pasadena, has sectioned off a room in the Virginia Steele Scott Gallery for a site-specific piece. The large-scale installation called Drifting Toward Twilight was curated by her granddaughter, Sóla Saar Agustsson, who currently works as The Huntington’s digitization coordinator. Saar’s “cocoon-like environment” centers a five person canoe carrying chairs, metal cages and antlers, traveling on branches and foliage collected from the Huntington’s grounds. Drifting Towards Twilight is accompanied by a book of the same name which will be published in the summer of 2024, and the work will remain on view until November 30th 2025.

About the Author

Carlota Gamboa

Carlota Gamboa is an art writer based in Los Angeles.

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