Betye Saar: The Legends of Black Girl’s Window

Museum of Modern Art, New York, United States
21 Oct 2019 - 10 Jan 2020

Betye Saar. Lo, The Mystique City. 1965. Etching with embossing, The Museum of Modern Art, New York. The Candace King Weir Endowment for Women Artists. © 2019 Betye Saar, courtesy the artist and Roberts Projects, Los Angeles. Digital Image © 2018 The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Photo by Rob Gerhardt

The Museum of Modern Art presents Betye Saar: The Legends of Black Girl’s Window, an in-depth solo exhibition exploring the deep ties between the artist’s iconic autobiographical assemblage Black Girl’s Window (1969) and her rare, early prints, made during the 1960s.

On view from October 21, 2019, through January 2020, Betye Saar: The Legends of Black Girl’s Window is drawn almost entirely from the Museum’s collection, and highlights the recent acquisition of 42 works on paper that provide an overview of Saar’s sophisticated, experimental print practice. The exhibition engages with the themes of family, history, and mysticism, which have been at the core of Saar’s work from its earliest days, and traces a link from her printmaking to the assemblages for which she is best known today.

Saar’s Black Girl’s Window (1969), one of her best known works, is at the heart of this exhibition, which provides an opportunity for a close examination of its myriad details and references. The work also serves as a guide to the larger installation, its signature themes explored through other works that reflect the artist’s lifelong muses, including her three daughters, and a range of astrological and mystical symbols. New research into the construction and materials used to create Black Girl’s Window allows for a direct link to be made between Saar’s prints in the Museum’s collection and the assemblage itself. Betye Saar: The Legends of Black Girl’s Window is also the first dedicated examination of Saar’s work as a printmaker, demonstrating how her interest in found objects and assemblage appears even in her early works on paper through her experimental practice.

A major figure in postwar art, Betye Saar (b. 1926) has lived and worked in Los Angeles her entire life, and is part of a generation of artists who pursued assemblage there during the 1960s and ’70s,which also included Edward Kienholz, John Outterbridge, and Noah Purifoy. Although best known for sculptures made from found materials, particularly those that challenge derogatory stereotypes of African Americans, Saar’s earliest independent works are prints. Working in a range of techniques, including intaglio and lithography, she created works on paper that reveal a comfort with experimentation and an early interest in incorporating physical traces of the world within her art. The Museum now has the largest public collection of Saar’s printed work, which remains largely unknown even to those familiar with her oeuvre. The prints will be juxtaposed in the exhibition with Black Girl’s Window and a number of other early window assemblages.

The exhibition will be accompanied by the catalogue ‘Betye Saar: Black Girl’s Window’, authored by Cherix and Adler, which situates this iconic work within Saar’s early career, and provides a link with the decades of work that follow it.

Betye Saar: The Legends of Black Girl’s Window is organized by Christophe Cherix, The Robert Lehman Foundation Chief Curator, and Esther Adler, Associate Curator, with Ana Torok, Curatorial Assistant, and Nectar Knuckles, Curatorial Fellow, Department of Drawings and Prints, The Museum of Modern Art.