Born and working in Austin Texas, Roberts' work is held in several collections in US based galleries and in the UK, but this show marked the first time the artist has held a major solo exhibition in a British gallery, featuring both her text works and figurative collages.
Her works on paper and on canvas combine found images, sourced from the internet, with hand-painted details in striking compositions that invite viewers to look closely, to see through the layers. In addition to representational imagery, the artist also makes text works in which she juxtaposes words in ways that expose racism and racial biases entrenched in language and linguistic systems.
Roberts' use of collage reflects the challenges encountered by young Black children as they strive to build their identity, particularly as they navigate preconceived social constructs, the white gaze and visual culture at large. The artist investigates how societal pressures, projected images of beauty or masculinity, and the violence of American racism conditions their formative experiences, as well as how others perceive them. Simultaneously heroic and insecure, playful and serious, powerful and vulnerable, the figures Roberts depicts combine a range of facial features, skin tones, hairstyles and clothes.
The difference between poetry and rhetoric by Kadish Morris
We're delighted to release an evocative essay by Kadish Morris, written in response to Deborah Roberts' A look inside.
Morris parallels the work of Roberts to that of American poet, essayist and feminist Audre Lorde. Both artists explore the representation of Black children in the USA as they grow up in a society entrenched with racism and racial biases.
Deborah Roberts’ exhibition is generously supported by Suzanne Deal Booth, The Collection of Kathleen and Christopher Loughlin and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London.
About Deborah Roberts
Deborah Roberts was born in Austin, Texas, USA in 1962 where she continues to live and work.
Roberts' use of collage reflects the challenges encountered by young Black children as they strive to build their identity, particularly as they respond to preconceived social constructs perpetuated by the Black community, the white gaze and visual culture at large. Combining a range of different facial features, skin tones, hairstyles and clothes, Roberts explains that, “with collage, I can create a more expansive and inclusive view of the Black cultural experience.”
The artist currently has a solo exhibition and outdoor commission on display at The Contemporary Austin, Texas which will tour to MCA Denver, Colorado later this year.
Roberts was a finalist in the 2019 Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition and her work was exhibited in the accompanying show ‘The Outwin 2019: American Portraiture Today', touring from the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. to Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University, Saint Louis, Missouri and Alaska State Museum, Juneau, Alaska (2019-2021). The Anonymous Was a Woman award was presented to Roberts in December 2018, a prize granted each year to ten female artists over the age of 40 in the USA and at a critical juncture in their career. She was a recipient of the Pollock-Krasner Grant in 2016 and was an Artist in Residence at The Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, Florida in 2019.
Roberts' work is held in the collections of Legacy Museum, Montgomery, Alabama, USA; Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas, USA; Manchester Art Gallery, Manchester, UK; Burger Collection, Hong Kong; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, USA; SFMOMA, San Francisco, California, USA; Dallas Museum of Art, Texas, USA; Scottish National Galleries, Edinburgh, UK/ American Patrons of the National Library and Galleries of Scotland; ICA Boston, Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Museum of Fine Arts (MFA), Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Brooklyn Museum, New York, USA; The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, USA; Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Virginia, USA; 21c Museum Hotels, Louisville, Kentucky, USA; The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery, Saratoga Springs, New York, USA; Block Museum of Art, Evanston, Illinois, USA; Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM), Miami, Florida, USA; LACMA, Los Angeles, California, USA; Montclair Art Museum, Montclair, New Jersey, USA; Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, Texas, USA and Pizzuti Collection, Columbus, Ohio, USA.
Roberts is represented by Stephen Friedman Gallery, London.