No. 222: Betye Saar

Episode No. 222 of The Modern Art Notes Podcast features artist Betye Saar.

The Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art is showing “Betye Saar: Still Tickin’,” a survey of nearly 55 years of Saar’s work. The exhibition, curated by Roel Arkesteijn, of the De Domijnen (which was formerly known as Museum Het Domein) in Sittard, the Netherlands in partnership with Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. The show will be on view through May 1.

Her Black Girl’s Window (1969) is on view at the Museum of Modern Art in a permanent collection installation titled “Take an Object.” The show will be up through Feb. 28. The Museum of Contemporary Art is also showing Gris-Gris Box (1972) in its permanent collection installation titled “The Art of Our Time.” It’s on view through Sept. 12.

Saar’s work has been important to or informed generations of artists. Betye Saar has referred to slave ships in her work for decades, references that are now commonplace in, say, Willie Cole. Saar went looking for materials on the streets of Watts in the 1960s, a practice that informed Mark Bradford. Kerry James Marshall started painting black skin as a flat monochrome in the early 1980s, over a decade after Saar did it in what are now some of her best-known works. In the 1970s Saar made lots of works that engaged and ridiculed racial stereotypes, precursors to work Carrie Mae Weems would make in the 1980s and 1990s. And Lari Pittman seems to have picked up on the way Saar used loaded cultural symbols and adjusted their meaning by including them in her work. David Hammons is typically thought of as the originator of hand-and-body prints in African-American art, but Saar was making them too, at the same time (and in the same city) as Hammons was.

Saar’s last solo exhibition in a New York museum was at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1975. Saar’s most recent museum shows in Los Angeles have been at the California African American Museum, which showed “CAGE,” which traveled there from New York’s Michael Rosenfeld Gallery in 2011, and “Ritual and Remembrance” in 1997.

Air date: February 4, 2016.

Betye Saar, Anticipation, 1961.

Betye Saar, Anticipation, 1961.

Betye Saar, The House of Tarot, 1966.

Betye Saar, The House of Tarot, 1966.

Betye Saar, Black Girl's Window, 1969.

Betye Saar, Black Girl’s Window, 1969.

David Hammons, Black Boy's Window, 1969.

David Hammons, Black Boy’s Window, 1969.

David Hammons, The Door (Admissions Office), 1969.

David Hammons, The Door (Admissions Office), 1969.

Betye Saar, Self-Window with Reflection, 1970.

Betye Saar, Self-Window with Reflection, 1970.

Betye Saar, Sambo's Banjo, 1971-72.

Betye Saar, Sambo’s Banjo, 1971-72.

Betye Saar, Liberation and Aunt Jemima, 1972.

Betye Saar, Liberation and Aunt Jemima, 1972.

Betye Saar, Gris-Gris Box, 1972.

Betye Saar, Gris-Gris Box, 1972.

 

Betye Saar, Aunt Hattie, 1977.

Betye Saar, Aunt Hattie, 1977.

Betye Saar, Rainbow Babe in the Woods, 1979.

Betye Saar, Rainbow Babe in the Woods, 1979.

Betye Saar, Crossing, 2005.

Betye Saar, Crossing, 2005.

Betye Saar, Crossings [verso], 2005.

Betye Saar, Crossings [verso], 2005.

Betye Saar, The Edge of Ethics, 2010.

Betye Saar, The Edge of Ethics, 2010.

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