Fig. 9. Betye Saar, Shield of Quality,
1974, mixed media assemblage
including wooden box, metal hinges,
antique photography, silver spoon,
leather glove, feathers, antique jewelry,
beads, shells, paper, fabric, lace, and
appliqu fragments, 9 x 14 /4 x 2 in.
Betye Saar ~, Courtesy of Michael
Rosenfeld Gallery, NewYork, N.Y.
inspired by memory and nostalgia.They engage multiple
matrices by positioning themselves amid the complex social
formulas of daily life.While black nationalists were interested in
depicting cultural and political heroes, Saar no longer wanted
to create protest imagery after her Liberation series; she wanted
to uncover the obscured, sepia-toned heroism of everyday lives.
So she gathered in her boxes fragments of black experiences,
objects rich with the transforming and liberating power of
As a backdrop to Saar's artistic production in the midsixties and early seventies, Los Angeles's black art community
was growing and organizing exhibitions in black-owned
exhibition spaces throughout the city. Venues such as Dale and
Alonzo Davis's Brockman Gallery, which opened in 1967, and
Samella Lewis's Contemporary Crafts Gallery developed into
thriving hubs of activity for African American artists in Southern California.9 Despite the growth of such galleries, there
were few opportunities for black assemblage artists like Saar to
show their work on a regular basis.
When Suzanne Jackson opened her Lafayette Park Place
gallery, Gallery 32, in 1968, it was a golden opportunity for
black assemblage artists to gather and support one another. As
Jackson recalls, "the gallery was really about work by artists
who would not be shown at other places" (Jackson and Mason
1998, 123). Betye Saar, David Hammons, Noah Purifoy, and
other artists such as Yvonne Cole Meo, Dan Conchlar, Gloria
Bohannon, Timothy Washington, John Stinson, and Sue Irons