Deborah Roberts’ black girls are beautiful in their incongruity. The artist from Austin, Texas, has her first exhibition in L.A. at the Luis De Jesus gallery, and the collage and text works explore preteen awkwardness and the syncretic nature of black female identity. The images celebrate what it means to contain multitudes.
Their most obvious precedent is the collage work of Romare Bearden, who documented African American life in the 1960s in dynamic compositions that channeled the energy of music. Roberts’ portraits also feel musical, incorporating bold prints, bright colors and dramatic shifts in scale and perspective, but her eclecticism is much quieter. Her girls appear isolated on white grounds, the center of attention.