The poetic installations by Betye Saar (b. 1926) entice us to contemplate and dream, yet their origins are of a quite different nature. Through her installations, objects and drawings, the American artist reflects on Black identity, the history of racism in the United States and the permeating discrimination in western society. Betye Saar explores all this with the power of poetry, thus achieving an intense often mystical engagement with these sombre themes. In the case of her assemblages, which can also be understood as understated activism, the artist draws her inspiration from her travels, ancestry, religion and mysticism. Betye Saar’s artistic work is often autobiographical, while at the same time speaks in a universal language about the collective experience of Black people in the United States and their history — from slavery after the conquest of America in 1492 to the ongoing racism of today. The materials Saar uses in her works, the finds and everyday items sourced at swap meets, flea markets and estate sales, testify to her interest in both the concrete and the ethereal, in the inseparability of art and life.
The exhibition is organized by the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami in collaboration with 49 Nord 6 Est – Frac Lorraine, Metz (FR) and Kunstmuseum Luzern (CH). At Kunstmuseum Luzern the exhibition is co-curated by Stephanie Seidel, Curator at ICA Miami, and Fanni Fetzer, Director of Kunstmuseum Luzern.