Betye Saar: Black Doll Blues brings together a selection of new watercolor works on paper, portraits of Saar's personal collection of Black dolls. Referencing the underrepresented history of Black dolls as seen through Saar's artistic lens, the works on view distill several intersecting themes, imagery, and objects in Saar's oeuvre, highlighting her prominent usage and reinvention of derogatory imagery.
From 1880s European brown bisque dolls to dolls hand-made with found materials by enslaved people up to more recent examples such as Mattel's 1968 first Black Barbie (Christie) or Addie of the American Girl Dolls, Black dolls often embodied the experiences and narratives of those who made them and/or received them. The Black dolls represent and reflect part of historical Black American culture.
Characterizing Saar's unique practice, these watercolours showcase the artist's experimentation with vivid colours, layered techniques, and new interest in flat shapes. While Saar has previously used painting in her mixed media collages, this is her first exhibition focusing on her watercolor works on paper. The exception in this exhibition is Rock-a-bye Black Babies, a tableau that features a child's rocker holding dolls from Saar's personal collection.
Press release courtesy Roberts Projects.