Betye Saar: Extending the Frozen Moment
October 15, 2005–January 8, 2006
Betye Saar is widely viewed as one of the most distinguished figures in American art today. Born in 1926 in Los Angeles, she emerged in the 1960s as a seminal figure in the redefinition of African-American identity in art. Throughout her career, Saar has made art that challenges us to think about our societal responses to race and to the history of race in the United States. Though politically trenchant, Saar's work moves beyond protest to encompass a profound spirituality and an awareness of the things that link human beings across cultural lines and across time-"the human complexity which stereotypes are intended to conceal," in the words of writer Ralph Ellison. Her interest in nostalgia, particularly in evoking personal histories real and imagined, is often expressed through the incorporation of vintage portraits and personal affects in her work, as if to reconstruct and reclaim the identities of those lost to history. Best known for her richly evocative assemblages of found objects, Betye Saar has been included in numerous exhibitions and is represented in many major museum collections. This exhibition, organized by UMMA, will be the first focused retrospective of her career.
Examining the totality of Saar's achievement and her place in American artmaking, this exhibition will focus on her work with photography, specifically, her incorporation of photographic fragments as a metaphor for her view of the African American experience and of lives too often obscured in American visual history. Including approximately sixty works drawn from public and private collections and the artist's own collection, this exhibition will be accompanied by a substantial book, co-published with the University of California Press, featuring new scholarship and critical writing on Betye Saar. After its premiere in Ann Arbor, the exhibition will embark on a national tour.
This exhibition is made possible by the National Endowment for the Arts, The Henry Luce Foundation, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, and the Peter Norton Family Foundation. Additional support has come from the University of Michigan's Office of the Provost, Office of the Vice President for Research, and Institute for Research on Women and Gender, as well as from Pfizer Global Research and Development, Michigan Radio, Michigan Television, the Monroe-Brown Foundation, and the Friends of the Museum of Art.