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.”
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.
The Chartrand Family
Emily Balz Smith Foundation
City of Jacksonville
Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville
Ronald and Karen Rettner
Season Lead Sponsors
The Robert D. Davis Family Endowment
The Schultz Family Endowment
State of Florida
Director's Circle at the Cummer Museum
The Winston Family Foundation