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Betye Saar's Black White, the first chapter of a two-part survey spanning both gallery spaces, reflects on how specific ideas are expressed through the descriptive qualities of black and white, affecting therelation of race within linguistic uses. Saar’s preoccupation with language – of its varying complexity applied via control, of its chaosand curiosity, the abstraction in both its use and unuse – is evident through her various methodologies. The works on view shift between being executed in monochromatic palettes, directly referencing either color in the title of the work, or interpreting the symbolism inherent within black or white categorization. Black White is an introduction, not a summary. An attitude, one characterized not by the tightness of an organizing principle, but by the looseness of its interpretation. The exhibition title fearlessly announces its defining ethos: the dimensional exploitation residing in the distinction drawn between white and black, and the prejudices attached to each condition. The employment of black, or white, connotes vivid associations, specifically emphasizing positive or negative designations: white light; white heat; white knight; white collar; whitewash;white flag; black humor; blacklist; black sheep; black magic; black death. Saar deconstructs the sociolinguistics of race as performance: illuminating how for many, language is used to disguise oneself, controlling how white or black one sounds. Additionally, the looseness characterizing the cultural borrowing of language implies an easy permissiveness, though only from one direction; even those who do not directly participate are implicated in this shared and shifting ownership.

Betye Saar

Betye Saar
When Cotton Was King, 2009
Mixed media assemblage
11.5 x 10 x 7 in (29.2 x 25.4 x 17.8 cm)

Betye Saar

Betye Saar
The Weight of Whiteness, 2014
Mixed media assemblage
14 x 9 x 7 in (35.56 x 22.86 x 17.78 cm)

Betye Saar

Betye Saar
Passe Blanc, 2002
Serigraph on unique rice paper
51 x 27 in (130.2 x 69.8 cm) unframed
Edition 3 of 10

Betye Saar

Betye Saar
Game of Fate, 2016
Mixed media assemblage
24 x 9.5 x 10 in (61.0 x 25.4 x 25.4 cm)

Betye Saar

Betye Saar
Dark Times, 2015
Mixed media on vintage washboard
21.25 x 8.5 x 2.5 in (54.0 x 21.6 x 6.3 cm)

Betye Saar

Betye Saar
Madame Noire, 2002
Mixed media assemblage on paper
24.5 x 16.25 x 1 in (62.2 x 41.3 x 2.5 cm) unframed

Betye Saar

Betye Saar
The Game of Chance, 2016
Mixed media assemblage
24 x 9.5 x 10.5 in (60.96 x 24.13 x 26.67 cm)

Betye Saar

Betye Saar
Always Just Out of Focus, 1982
Mixed media collage on paper
18 x 13.5 in (45.72 x 34.29 cm)

Betye Saar

Betye Saar
Every Secret Thing (Almost), 1982
Mixed media collage on paper
20 x 13.25 in (50.8 x 33.66 cm)

Betye Saar

Betye Saar
Collecting Twilight Corners, 1982
Mixed media collage on paper
19.5 x 14.75 in (49.53 x 37.47 cm)

Betye Saar

Betye Saar
To Follow Separate Stars, 1982
Mixed media collage on paper
18 x 15.5 in (45.7 x 39.4 cm)

Betye Saar

Betye Saar
Heartbreak Hotel, 2016
Mixed media assemblage
15.75 x 8.75 x 4 in (40.64 x 22.86 x 10.16 cm)

Betye Saar

Betye Saar
Sorceress with Seven Assorted Birds, 1964
Etching
14.5 x 12 inches (36.83 x 30.48 cm) unframed; 
22 x 18.75 inches (55.88 x 47.625 cm) framed
Edition 1/20