Two-venue exhibition of Sadie Barnette opens at Benton

The Benton Museum of Art at Pomona College and Pitzer College Art Galleries are hosting the most ambitious exhibition to date of California artist Sadie Barnette.
“Sadie Barnette: Legacy and Legend” a two-venue presentation of the artist’s recent work that brings together her drawings, installations, and photographs that explore intimate family narratives within global discourses on race and power, will be on view from July 22 through December 19.
The exhibition is curated by Benton senior curator Rebecca McGrew and Pitzer director Ciara Ennis.
“Sadie Barnette’s compelling project fulfills our curatorial vision of presenting exhibitions that challenge our audiences to think creatively and critically about social issues,” said Ms. McGrew.
“We are thrilled to present Barnette’s work, which commemorates historical struggles for human potential while holding space for emancipatory futures,” added Ms. Ennis.
The Benton presentation evolved from Ms. Barnette’s 2017 work, “Dear 1968,…,” which focused on the 500-page surveillance dossier amassed by the FBI on the artist’s father, Rodney Ellis Barnette. A lifelong social justice activist, he founded the Compton chapter of the Black Panther Party in 1968.
“This dossier reveals the intimidation tactics that the FBI used to harass the elder Barnette and his community,” read a Benton press release. “In this earlier project, the artist reclaimed these files by adorning them with bright pink spray paint, glitter, and rhinestones. Her embellishments transformed symbols of oppression into emblems of a community’s strength and resilience.”
In the exhibition at the Benton, the artist will present new work from the FBI drawings series, the most recent iteration of her continued interrogation of the FBI files.
“The large-scale drawings, in densely applied graphite on stark white paper, enlarge and invert complete pages from the dossier,” the release stated. “To these drawings Barnette adds images of roses and other decorative domestic items to honor, memorialize, and reclaim her family’s life. The labor-intensive process of hand-brushing layers of graphite becomes, in the artist’s words, ‘drawing as incantation, cast for healing and real justice… evidence of a fierce love.’ Barnette’s trademark glittering pink wall paint and holographic objects will also feature prominently in the Benton’s exhibition.”
Ms. Barnette will present a gallery talk at both institutions on Saturday, November 6.
In addition, she will be in conversation with her father, Rodney Barnette, and activist Ericka Huggins on Tuesday, December 7 as part of the Murray Pepper and Vicky Reynolds Distinguished Visiting Artists and Scholars Lecture at Pitzer College. This intergenerational conversation will discuss the emergence and necessity of Black protest movements, historically and contemporaneously, and the importance of creativity and caretaking in the process.
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