Betye Saar: Call and Response at The Morgan Library & Museum, September 12, 2020 – January 31, 2021

“The Morgan Library & Museum proudly announces a solo exhibition of work by the Los Angeles–based artist Betye Saar (b. 1926). Best known for incisive collages and assemblages that confront and reclaim racist images, Saar emerged in the 1960s as part of a wave of artists, many of them African American, who embraced the medium of assemblage. She went on to become one of the most significant artists working in this medium today. Betye Saar: Call and Response is the first exhibition to focus on Saar’s sketchbooks and examine the relationship between her found objects, sketches, and finished works.

As an early champion of Saar’s work, the Morgan acquired a series of six collages that will be displayed in full for the first time as part of this exhibition. A Secretary to the Spirits (1975) is the outcome of an invitation by author and activist Ishmael Reed (b. 1938) to create a series of collages for his poetry book of the same name. In another form of ‘call and response,’ each of Saar’s collages is based on and named for one of Reed’s poems. Saar employed a layered approach to echo Reed’s poetry, which combines references to the ancient and the contemporary, the spiritual and the mundane.” — The Morgan Library & Museum

Betye Saar, Eyes of the Beholder, 1994.
Paint on metal and wood serving tray, with painted
metal baking pan and metal ornaments.
Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects,
Los Angeles, California. Photography by © Museum
Associates/LACMA, © Betye Saar.
Betye Saar, Sanctuary Awaits, 1996.
Wood, glass bottles, metal wire, palm fronds,
compass, sheet tin, screws, and nails.
Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects, Los
Angeles, California. Photography by © Museum
Associates; LACMA, © Betye Saar.
Betye Saar, A Call to Arms, 1997.
Washboard with stenciled lettering, toy guns, compass, clock,
wood picture frame, printed photo, crumb brush, twine, bullets, wood
and metal spools, and Black Power fists.
Collection of David Packard and M. Bernadette Castor.
Photography TK, © Betye Saar.
Betye Saar, A Loss of Innocence, 1998.
Dress with printed labels, wood hanger, chair, and framed
photo on block. Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects,
Los Angeles, California. Photography by Kris Walters.
© Betye Saar.
Betye Saar, I’ll Bend But I Will Not Break, 1998.
Ironing board with printed images and text, flat iron, chain, bedsheet with appliqués, wood clothespins,
and rope. Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Gift of Lynda and Stewart Resnick through the 2018 Collectors
Committee © Betye Saar. Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects, Los Angeles, California.
Betye Saar, The Edge of Ethics, 2010.
Metal cage, figures, chain, glass bottle, and fan coral.
Collection of Iris and Adam Singer.
Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects,
Los Angeles, California.© Betye Saar
Betye Saar, Sketchbook page for Memory Window for Anastacia , May 3, 1994.
Watercolor and ballpoint pen. Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects,
Los Angeles, California. © Betye Saar.
Betye Saar, Sketchbook page for Eyes of the Beholder, November 6, 1994.
Watercolor and ballpoint pen. Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects,
Los Angeles, California. © Betye Saar.
Betye Saar, Page from Haiti sketchbook, July 24, 1974.
Watercolor, ballpoint pen, and ink.
Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects,
Los Angeles, California. © Betye Saar.
Betye Saar, Page from U.S.A. sketchbook, Santa Fe, Museum of
International Folk Art, 1988–91. Watercolor and ballpoint pen.
Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects,
Los Angeles, California. © Betye Saar.
Betye Saar, Spread from Black Dolls sketchbook, San Diego,
Mingei International Museum, May 24, 2015.
Photocopy, ink, watercolor, marker, and collage of paper on board.
Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects, Los Angeles,
California. © Betye Saar.
Betye Saar, A Secretary to the Spirits
(from the series A Secretary to the Spirits [for Ishmael Reed] ), 1975.
Collage of cut printed papers and fabric, with matte and
metallic paint and ink stamps, on laminated paperboard.
The Morgan Library & Museum, Gift of the Modern and
Contemporary Collectors Committee.
Photography by Janny Chiu. © BetyeSaar.

Organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), the exhibition at the Morgan is coordinated by Dr. Rachel Federman, the Morgan’s Associate Curator of Modern and Contemporary Drawings.

Images courtesy The Morgan Library & Museum.