Deborah Roberts


Deborah Roberts (American, b. 1962), The duty of disobedience, 2020

Deborah Roberts (American, b. 1962), The duty of disobedience, 2020, mixed media collage on canvas, 72 x 100 in., Artwork © Deborah Roberts. Courtesy the artist; Vielmetter Los Angeles; and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London. Image courtesy The Contemporary Austin. Photograph by Paul Bardagjy. 

Friday, September 16, 2022 to Sunday, December 4, 2022

Deborah Roberts critiques notions of beauty, the body, race, and identity in contemporary society through the lens of Black children. Her mixed media works on paper and on canvas combine found images, sourced from the Internet, with hand-painted details in striking figural compositions that invite viewers to look closely, to see through the layers. She focuses her gaze on Black children—historically, and still today, among the most vulnerable members of our population—investigating how societal pressures, projected images of beauty or masculinity, and the violence of American racism conditions their experiences growing up in this country as well as how others perceive them. Simultaneously heroic and insecure, playful and serious, powerful and vulnerable, the figures Roberts depicts are complex, occasionally based on actual living or historical persons.

As the artist noted in an interview for her 2018 exhibition at the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art, “What I want as an artist is for the viewer to see that face, first and foremost, as the face of a child because that’s the image I think you need to come to. I tell my audiences that this is the idea—to ‘see’ that little girl! I am also hoping they see vulnerability, strength, and beauty. If you can find yourself in her face, then you can see and embrace your own humanity. Once you see me as human, then we can coexist equally. That’s the basis of the work.”

Learn more about the exhibition.

Click here to buy the exhibition catalogue, now available in the Cummer Shop.

Click here for a recommended reading list to complement the exhibition.

Deborah Roberts: I'm is organized by The Contemporary Austin. The exhibition and catalogue are made possible with the generous support from the Ford Foundation, an Art Works grant from the National Endowment of the Arts, Vielmetter Los Angeles, Stephen Friedman Gallery, London, The Girlfriend Fund, Suzanne McFayden and other individual donors from Austin and around the country.     


Lead Sponsor

The Chartrand Family

Exhibition Sponsor

Wish Foundation

Education Sponsor

FSCJ Foundation

Program Sponsor

Emily Balz Smith Foundation

Season Presenters

City of Jacksonville

Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville

Lory Doolittle

Ronald and Karen Rettner

Season Lead Sponsors

The Robert D. Davis Family Endowment

The Schultz Family Endowment

State of Florida

Season Sponsors

Director's Circle at the Cummer Museum

The Winston Family Foundation