Sept 15-2016-Jan 8 2017
Fondazione Prada presents 'Uneasy Dancer', a comprenensive survey of the work of Betye Saar (Los Angeles, 1926). Curated by Elvira Dyangani Ose, “Betye Saar: Uneasy Dancer” is the first exhibition of the American artist in Italy, and brings together over 80 works including installations, assemblages, collages and sculpture produced between 1966 and 2016.
Throughout her career Saar has engaged with a practice which opposes male chauvinist and Euro-centric thinking, while supporting a humanistic perspective, one that reconsiders holistic concepts of the individual, family, community and society. Like Louise Nevelson, Betye Saar is an assemblage artist, collecting found objects and elements -- photographs in Saar's case -- in mixed media art pieces in which the whole gains meaning because of its elements.
The artists began collecting derogatory black images and elements prior to America's civil rights movement. But the assassination of Martin Luther King unleashed her pain, rage, and disgust with American prejudice. Looking inside 'Sambo's banjo', for example, we see not a musical instrument but images of lynched black men accompanied by a slice of watermelon.
As an artist not compelled to explain her feminist identity as it relates to her racial politics, Saar's Uneasy Dancer' show is:
. . . "an expression Betye Saar has used to define both herself and her artistic practice. In her own words, “my work moves in a creative spiral with the concepts of passage, crossroads, death and rebirth, along with the underlying elements of race and gender.” This process implies “a stream of consciousness” that explores the ritualized mysticism present in recovering personal stories and iconographies from everyday objects and images. Several key elements lie at the center of her artistic practice: an interest in the metaphysical, the representation of feminine memory, and African-American identity which, in her work, takes on takes on evocative and unusual forms. As Saar has said about her work, “It was really about evolution rather than revolution, about evolving the consciousness in another way and seeing black people as human beings instead of the caricatures or the derogatory images.”
Related: In 2014 Betye Saar won the 2014 Edward MacDowell Medal, a lifetime achievement award given by America's oldest artists' colony. Read her interview in the LA Times