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Betye Saar: In Service, A Version of Survival

March 9 – May 6, 2000


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Press Release

Betye Saar: In Service, A Version of Survival features fourteen mixed media assemblages, where the structural format for most is a vintage serving tray. These works confront and deconstruct derogatory black images, particularly the mammy icon. Since the 1970s, Saar has consistently returned to her original mission "to transform and empower negative images into positive information" and her characterizations of mammies and other servants promise to jolt viewers’ conceptions of black Americans and servitude.

Found objects, including vintage tin signs, which were popular to advertise commercial products, are combined with the trays and derogatory images of African-Americans in roles of servitude, to present new messages. Saar’s purpose in creating these works is to remind us of the struggle of African-Americans and to reclaim the humiliating images of how these workers were once portrayed. Saar states "I feel that, however painful, there is honor in re-presenting the past. Racism should neither be ignored nor satirized, as it is a form of bondage for everyone, regardless of color. Racism cannot be conquered until it is confronted."

Saar, known for her multimedia collages, box assemblages, and altars consisting of found materials, voices her political, racial, religious and gender concerns in an effort to "reach across the barriers of art and life, to bridge cultural diversities and forge new understandings." Although Saar has utilized the derogatory image in her art since the 1970s, politically and socially charged works represent only a small portion of her oeuvre. Consistently, Saar has created meditative and introspective collages, assemblages and site-specific installations, steeped in spirituality, mysticism, and Eastern beliefs. She states, "I am intrigued with combining the remnant of memories, fragments of relics and ordinary objects, with the components of technology. It’s a wave of delving into the past and reaching into the future simultaneously. The art itself becomes the bridge."

Michael Rosenfeld Galley LLC is the exclusive representative of Betye Saar.