The Bluecoat, Liverpool is delighted to be hosting a major exhibition by award-winning US based artist Deborah Roberts (Austin, Texas, 1962). The exhibition, Roberts’ first major UK solo exhibition, launches on Friday 15 October 2021 and brings together new and recent work from the past five years.

Combining collage with mixed media, Deborah Roberts’ figurative works critique notions of the body, beauty, race and identity in contemporary society through the lens of Black children in the USA. Her works on paper and on canvas combine found images, sourced from the internet, with hand-painted details in striking compositions that invite viewers to look closely, to see through the layers. In addition to representational imagery, the artist also makes text works in which she juxtaposes words in ways that expose racism and racial biases entrenched in language and linguistic systems. 

Roberts’ work is held in several collections in US based galleries and in the UK, but this is the first significant showing of her work in Europe, and includes both her text works and figurative collage. Roberts’ solo exhibition will premiere alongside a solo presentation by UK artist Rosa Johan Uddoh (born 1993, Croydon).

Both exhibitions will be open to the public from 15 October 2021 – 23 January 2022.

Marie-Anne McQuay, Head of Programme at the Bluecoat says of the show:

“We’re delighted and honoured to reveal that the Bluecoat will present the first major showing of Deborah Roberts in the UK, here in Liverpool. I know that her exquisite collage and mixed media works which interrogate identity will have deep resonance with the city. Her exhibition is the first in a series of announcements of upcoming programmes at the Bluecoat taking us from autumn 2021 through to summer 2022.”

Deborah Roberts’ use of collage reflects the challenges encountered by young Black children as they strive to build their identity, particularly as they navigate preconceived social constructs, the white gaze and visual culture at large. The artist investigates how societal pressures, projected images of beauty or masculinity, and the violence of American racism conditions their formative experiences, as well as how others perceive them. Simultaneously heroic and insecure, playful and serious, powerful and vulnerable, the figures Roberts depicts combine a range of facial features, skin tones, hairstyles and clothes; Roberts explains that “with collage, I can create a more expansive and inclusive view of the Black cultural experience.”

Deborah Roberts writes:

“I am very excited to be exhibiting at the Bluecoat in Liverpool this year. This being my first institutional show in Europe, my hope is to engage with new audiences and different communities and continue to explore how art can challenge notions of race, beauty and culture.”

Bluecoat is funded by Liverpool City Council and Arts Council England and supported by Culture Liverpool. Public Programme is funded by Garfield Weston. Deborah Roberts’ exhibition is generously supported by Suzanne Deal Booth, The Collection of Kathleen and Christopher Loughlin and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London.

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