Monday, October 28, 2019

BETTY SAAR: The Legends of a Black Girl's Window: By Polly Guerin

Betye Saar 2012
BETYE SAAR, who turned 93 in July, has been called a legend in the world of contemporary art. An African American artist known for her work in the medium of assemblage, Saar is a visual storyteller and an accomplished print maker. Though her work has been exhibited steadily since the 60s, attention to her work has burgeoned in the past decade, among artists of younger generations and curators internationally.
      THE MUSEUM OF MODERN ART recently launched  newly expanded and reconfigured space with
"BETYE SAAR: THE LEGENDS OF BLACK GIRL'S WINDOW, an in-depth solo exhibition exploring the deep ties between the artist's iconic autobiographical assemblage Black Girl's Window (1969) and her rare, early prints made during the 1960s. Betye Saar: The Legends of Black
Girl's Window is drawn almost entirely form the Museum's collection, and highlights the recent acquisition of 42 works on paper that provide an overview of Saar's sophisticated, experimental print practice. The exhibition, through January 4, 2020,  engages with the themes of family, history, and mysticism, which have been at the core of Saar's work from the earliest days, and traces a link from her printmaking to the assemblages for which she is best known today. Image: Betye Saar (2012). The Museum of Modern Art Archives, New York. (c) Michele Mattei (c) 2019. Betsy Saar, courtesy the artist and Roberts Projects, Los Angeles. All Digital Images (c) Courtesy The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Photos by Rob Gerhardt. The MoMA exhibition is the artist's first art museum solo in New York, since an appearance at the Whitney in 1975.

Black Girl's Window 1969
        Saar's bricolage practice was inspired early, by watching Simon Rodia's Watts Towers rise, and 
nourished further by an introduction in the late '60s to the work of  Joseph Cornell. Her use of scavenged materials developed in fertile ground and rich company in L.A. Among the kindred efforts of Edward Kienholz, Noah Purifoy, John Outterbridge, and others. Saar's constructions range from the intimate architecture of altars to immersive installation.  She favors materials worn on the body, such as handkerchiefs and gloves or tools of domestic labor like washboards and irons. Saar has Incorporated birdcages, photographs and fabrics, clocks and ladders, globes and scales into works steeped in remembrance, grief, rage, humor, and tenderness. Image: Betye Saar: Black Girl's Window, 1969. Wooden window frame with paint, cut-and-pasted printed and painted papers,, daguerreotype, lenticular print, and plastic figure, 35 3/4 x 18 = 1 1/2. The Museum of Modern Art, Gift of Candace King Weir through The Modern Women's Fund and Committee on Painting and Sculpture Funds (c) 2019 Betye
Saar, courtesy the artist and Roberts Projects, Los Angeles.
       A major in postwar art, Betye Saar (b. 1926) has lived and worked in Los Angeles her entire life, and is part of a generation of artists who pursued assemblages there during the 1960s and 70s. Although best known for sculptures made from found materials, particularly those that challenged African American stereotypes, Saar's earliest independent works are prints working in a range of techniques, including intaglio and lithography, she created works on paper that reveal experimentation and an early interest in incorporating physical traces of the world with her art.
MoMA now has the largest public collection of Saar's printed work, which remains largely unknown even to those familiar with her oeuvre. SAAR at home: Saar lives in the same house in Laurel Canyon, in the Hollywood Hills, where she moved with her family in 1962. Her adjacent studio reflects her assemblage work with objects, worn surfaces, bundled items, collectibles and sketch books in an ordering fashion of sorts. in summing up it is obvious that the unstoppable Betsy Saar is simply interested in getting on with the next project.
Image: Betye Saar, ANTICIPATION, 1961, 

18 l/8 x 14 7/16",  The Museum of Modern Art, New York. The Candace King Weir Endowment for Women Artists (c)2019 Betye Saar, courtesy the artist and Roberts Projects, Los Angeles
       Ta Ta Darlings!!!  Betye Saar reminds us to remember the emotions of the heart through her broad range of assemblages and print work. Fan mail welcome at Visit Polly's other Blogs at and click on the link to visonary men, women determined to succeed, fashion historian and even, Polly's poetry.

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