Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

'Black Is Not a Colour Any More' EXHIBITION US Artist Deborah Roberts Is Thrilled That Her Work Exploring Race and Beauty Is Part of a Show Curated by Yinka Shonibare, She Tells Ben Luke

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

'Black Is Not a Colour Any More' EXHIBITION US Artist Deborah Roberts Is Thrilled That Her Work Exploring Race and Beauty Is Part of a Show Curated by Yinka Shonibare, She Tells Ben Luke

Article excerpt

Byline: Ben Luke

WHEN Deborah Roberts got a call from gallerist Stephen Friedman telling her artist Yinka Shonibare was a fan of her work, she was shocked. "I was like: 'OK, I'm floored, I love this guy!'" Friedman was ringing to ask if she'd take part in Talisman in the Age of Difference, the show at his gallery curated by Shonibare featuring artists from Africa and the global African diaspora. When asked to participate, says Roberts, she responded: "Hell, yeah! When, where, what can I do?" Roberts, who lives in her native Austin, Texas, is over for the opening of the show, and when we meet the finishing touches to the densely hung installation are being made. "I love this show, I love the whole idea," she says.

Shonibare taps into what he calls the "magic and subversive beauty" of art, addressing "the spirit of African resistance and representation". For Roberts, the show is about diversity within blackness. "It is not a colour any more," she says. "So what does that mean, what does blackness mean? This show exudes blackness in a way that has never been seen before."

Three of Roberts's collages of young black girls feature in the exhibition. They emerged from her desire "to talk about beauty. I found that sometimes people reduce the humanity of those who look different from yourself, and if you have dark skin or brown that is reduced further. I wanted to say you need to see me as a full person. By putting together different faces as one face, it forces the viewer to look at that one face. Once you find that face, you find the humanity." She wants her work "to lure you in before it knocks you out. But as you start seeing some of the tropes I'm talking about, you say: 'Wow, this wasn't candy, this was really medicine, to make me feel better'."

Roberts is conscious that in using collage to address social issues she enters "a great history of using collage as a political weapon", and names Hannah Hoch, the satirist of Weimar Germany, and Romare Bearden, the great African-American Civil Rights collagist, as influences.

When Roberts first started making the collages, the US had an African-American president. …

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