If They Comeby Polly Leonard
American artist Deborah Roberts' first solo exhibition in Europe will be opening next week at the Stephen Friedman Gallery. The works on display will be in Roberts' signature figurative style, making use of collage with mixed media. Using photographs, magazine clippings, and internet images, Roberts constructs portraits of fragmented bodies that tackle issues of subjecthood and identity head-on. Each of Roberts' pieces challenges ideas and stereotypes about African-American womanhood, femininity, beauty, and politics - for example, she confronts the hyper-sexualisation of women in the media in a slightly tongue-in-cheek way. Many of her portraits are of young African girls, who are presented as strong and powerful characters.
Deborah Roberts was born in Austin, Texas in 1962 where she continues to live and work. Her collages can be compared to the seminal artists Romare Bearden and Hannah Hoch amongst many others. Her composite figures present an expanded view of beauty that prioritises marginalised narratives while fighting discriminatory perceptions of the black female experience. Using fashion magazines, which have historically excluded black women and promoted a very narrow ideal of beauty, serves to challenge stereotypical ideas of femininity.
The exhibition is accompanied by a new publication featuring an essay by Daniella Rose King, Whitney-Lauder Curatorial Fellow at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia. Roberts will have a major solo exhibition at The Contemporary Austin, Texas in September 2020.
Deborah Roberts: If They Come, 7 June - 20 July 2019, Stephen Friedman Gallery, 25-28 Old Burlington Street, London, W1S 3AN
Blog post by Jessica Edney