Sadie Barnette Joins the Black Studies Collaboratory as Inaugural Artist Fellow

The Black Studies Collaboratory (BSC) at UC Berkeley is pleased to announce that Sadie Barnette will be the BSC inaugural Artist Fellow. Barnette will join the Collaboratory’s Abolition Democracy Fellows Program for Fall 2021 to take part in a collective workshop invested in the interdisciplinary, political and world-building work of Black Studies. As part of the Collaboratory, Barnette will be in community with Elder-in-Residence Daphne Muse, scholars, students, and activists as she works on current and future projects. 

Barnette’s multimodal practice engages themes of surveillance, gentrification, queer kinship, community care, and intergenerational activism. With attention to the intersections between the mundane and the fantastical, she often reinterprets archives to explore modes of recuperating and re-presenting Black histories. Born and raised in Oakland, where she still resides, Barnette’s deep reverence for Black Bay Area communities manifests in artwork that examines the harm of a changing landscape caused by gentrification and the promise of reconstituting ways of being together and loving Blackness.

Sadie Barnette. Photo: Jeff McLane 

Barnette makes use of color, form, and materials--most frequently pink, floral designs, and glitter--to trouble visual expectations and gesture towards speculative possibilities. Her series, Dear 1968… involved working over a 500-page FBI surveillance file kept on her father, Rodney Barnette, who founded the Compton, California, chapter of the Black Panther Party in 1968. Dear 1968… travelled throughout the United States and works have been acquired by numerous museums including the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, the Oakland Museum of California, and the Guggenheim. A new body of work revisits these materials in graphite drawing and will be exhibited in solo shows this Fall at Pomona College and Jessica Silverman. 

“Sadie’s artwork, so rooted in the Black Bay Area and its legacies of Black radicalism, speaks to the spirit of the Collaboratory,” says Leigh Raiford, inaugural director of the BSC. “She offers new insight to our conceptualizations of Black history and helps us imagine ways to critique physical and bureaucratic violence and heal traumas of the past while holding space for joy and play.” 

Installation view of Sadie Barnette: The New Eagle Creek Saloon, Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles

In anticipation of her time with the BSC Barnette writes: “As an artist who always struggled with traditional education systems it is an honor to be invited by UC Berkeley's Department of African American Studies to this important fellowship for the Black Studies Collaboratory, on my own terms and with this dynamic community. I am humbled to bring my work, my family, and all those that have come before me, to this table of exchange and scholarship. During my residency, I hope to engage the archives and resources of the university as well as welcome the cohort into my practice, process, and forthcoming exhibition Legacy & Legend, September 2021 at Pomona and Pitzer colleges. I am filled with gratitude.”

Barnette holds a BFA from CalArts and an MFA from University of California, San Diego. Barnette has been an artist in residence at the Studio Museum in Harlem (New York City)  the Headlands Center for the Arts (Marin, CA) and the Carmago Foundation (France) among others. She is currently represented by Jessica Silverman in San Francisco and Charlie James Gallery in Los Angeles. 

The BSC Advisory Board is honored to support Barnette’s work, looks forward to learning from her, and is excited to see how her art will evolve during her residency. 

"Malcolm X Speaks," Archival pigment print and Swarovski crystals, 30x 40", 2018

"FBI Drawings: Do Not Destroy," Powdered graphite on paper, 60 x 48", 2021

The Abolition Democracy Fellows Program was created as part of the Black Studies Collaboratory, a three year project made possible through a generous grant awarded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. 
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