box assemblage

Robert Rauschenberg, Canyon - 1959

Oil, pencil, paper, fabric, metal, cardboard box, printed paper, printed reproductions, photograph, wood, paint tube, and mirror on canvas.

6′ 9 3/4″ x 5″ 10″

Sonnabend Collection Art NY

For Betye Saar, there’s no dwelling on the past; the almost-90-year-old artist has too much future to think about

It began in 1972, with a breakthrough work titled “The Liberation of Aunt Jemima,” a small, shoe box-size assemblage in which she took a stereotypical mammy figurine — and armed her with a rifle and a grenade.

“It’s like they abolished slavery but they kept black people in the kitchen as mammy jars,” Saar says of what drove her to make the piece. “I had this Aunt Jemima, and I wanted to put a rifle and a grenade under her skirts. I wanted to empower her. I wanted to make her a warrior. I wanted people to know that black people wouldn’t be enslaved by that.”  

Over her career, Saar has quietly and firmly built a body of work that touches on the magical, the personal and the political — something she continues to do to this day.