Deborah Roberts

American
Deborah Roberts Head Nods and Handshakes 2019 © Deborah Roberts. Courtesy the artist and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London. Photo by Paul Bardagjy

Biography

Born 1962
Nationality American
Birth place Austin, Texas

Deborah Roberts is an American artist based in Austin, Texas, whose mixed media practice ranges across collage, painting, text works and installation. Her work depicts African American adolescent bodies in ways that challenge conventions of beauty, particularly idealised or universal notions of beauty as shaped by Western art history, fashion and popular culture. Actively working against the exclusion of Black female identity from such standards, Roberts refuses societal pressures and stereotypes to offer instead complexity and dignity in her representations of the Black community. Each adolescent body in her work is composed of fragments culled from several figures (including images of radical historical figures and contemporary Black role models), often with extra limbs and adult-sized hands. Cut, spliced and reconfigured, these bodies bear the layered marks of marginalisation, resistance, and reinvention. As Roberts remarks: ‘With collage, I can create a more expansive and inclusive view of the Black cultural experience.’ The artist studied at the University of North Texas, Denton; the San Francisco Art Institute and Syracuse University. Her work is included in numerous public collections, including LACMA, Los Angeles, California; Manchester Art Gallery, Manchester, UK; Museum of Fine Arts (MFA), Boston, Massachusetts; The Museum of Modern Art, New York and The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York. Roberts’ work was included in Cut and Paste: 400 Years of Collage at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in 2019, and her first institutional solo exhibition in the UK was organised by the Bluecoat, Liverpool in autumn 2021. A major touring exhibition of new work opened at The Contemporary Austin, Texas in June 2021, where in autumn 2020 the artist completed her first outdoor public mural