The Nasher Sculpture Center will present Betye Saar: "Call and Response," the first exhibition to examine the relationship between Saar’s sketchbooks, which she has kept since the late 1960s, and her finished works. Organized for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art by LACMA’s Senior Curator of Modern Art, Carol S. Eliel, the exhibition features approximately 40 objects and covers the span of the artist’s career, including work from her early years through the present day.
Addressing spirituality, gender, and race in her art, Saar ruminates and plays with objects and ideas, making sketches inspired by specific found objects in her possession. In her sketchbooks, Saar lays out quick visuals for works, jotting down ideas about materials and potential titles for finished pieces. She has also kept more elaborate travel sketchbooks containing exquisitely beautiful watercolors and collages, many with motifs that recur throughout her work, including hearts, eyes, hands, lions, and celestial bodies.
Saar combines items typically discovered at flea markets and second-hand stores into conceptually and physically elaborate creations. Her creative process starts with a particular found object, a piece of leather, a cot, a tray, a birdcage, an ironing board, since she believes that objects have stories to tell. After identifying a primary object, Saar surveys her stockpile of other found materials to see what feels appropriate to combine with it. Only once she has arrived at a vision of the final work in her mind’s eye does she make a sketch.