Two-Venue Exhibition of Sadie Barnette Opening at Pitzer College Art Galleries and Benton Museum of Art at Pomona College

Claremont, Calif. (July 9, 2021)—Pitzer College Art Galleries and the Benton Museum of Art at Pomona College are pleased to announce the most ambitious exhibition to date of the California artist Sadie Barnette. Sadie Barnette: Legacy & Legend is a two-venue presentation of the artist’s recent work that brings together her drawings, installations, and photographs that explore intimate family narratives within global discourses on race and power. The exhibition, curated by Pitzer College Art Galleries Director Ciara Ennis and Benton Senior Curator Rebecca McGrew, will be on view from July 22 through December 18, 2021.

“Sadie Barnette’s compelling project fulfills our curatorial vision of presenting exhibitions that challenge our audiences to think creatively and critically about social issues,” states McGrew. Ennis continues, “We are thrilled to present Barnette’s work, which commemorates historical struggles for human potential while holding space for emancipatory futures.”

Sadie Barnette, FBI Drawings: Mug Shot, 2021. Powdered graphite and spray paint on paper. 60 x 48 in.

The presentation at the Benton evolved from an earlier work of Barnette’s, Dear 1968, . . . (2017), which focused on the 500-page surveillance dossier amassed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation on the artist’s father, Rodney Ellis Barnette. A lifelong social-justice activist, he founded the Compton chapter of the Black Panther Party in 1968. This dossier reveals the intimidation tactics that the FBI used to harass the elder Barnette and his community. In this earlier project, the artist reclaimed these files by adorning them with bright pink spray paint, glitter, and rhinestones. Her embellishments transformed symbols of oppression into emblems of a community’s strength and resilience.

In the exhibition at the Benton, the artist will present new work from the FBI Drawings series, the most recent iteration of her continued interrogation of the FBI files. The large-scale drawings, in densely applied graphite on stark white paper, enlarge and invert complete pages from the dossier. To these drawings Barnette adds images of roses and other decorative domestic items to honor, memorialize, and reclaim her family’s life. The labor- intensive process of hand-brushing layers of graphite becomes, in the artist’s words, “drawing as incantation, cast for healing and real justice…evidence of a fierce love.” Barnette’s trademark glittering pink wall paint and holographic objects will also feature prominently in the Benton’s exhibition.

These gestures of reclamation and resilience are echoed in the installation at Pitzer, which takes the form of an immersive living room densely packed with drawings, photographs, a sofa upholstered in holographic vinyl, and stacked speakers. Adding glitter, spray paint, and custom-designed wallpaper, Barnette celebrates the generosity and joy within one’s own community while also speaking to the present-day movement that is confronting systemic racism.

Sadie Barnette, Princess 2, 2021. Powdered graphite, 60 x 48 in.

Sadie Barnette: Legacy & Legend is the third collaboration between Pitzer College Art Galleries and the Benton, and the 54th exhibition in the Benton’s Project Series. The Benton and Pitzer College Art Galleries will jointly publish the first major catalogue on the artist’s work to accompany the exhibition. Edited by co-curators Ennis and McGrew, the publication will include new texts by Sadie Barnette, an essay by co-curators Ennis and McGrew, and an essay by Whitney Museum of American Art curator Rujeko Hockley.

The exhibition and publication are supported in part by a generous grant from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, with additional support from the Pasadena Art Alliance.

Related Events

Sadie Barnette will present a gallery talk at both institutions on Saturday, November 6, 2021. In addition, the artist will be in conversation with her father, Rodney Barnette, and activist Ericka Huggins on Tuesday, December 7, 2021, as part of the Murray Pepper and Vicki Reynolds Distinguished Visiting Artists and Scholars Lecture at Pitzer College. This intergenerational conversation will discuss the emergence and necessity of Black protest movements, historically and contemporaneously and the importance of creativity and caretaking in the process. Please visit,, or contact Christopher Michno at [email protected], Caroline Eastburn at [email protected] for more information.

About the Artist

Sadie Barnette holds a BFA from CalArts and an MFA from the University of California, San Diego. She has been awarded grants and residencies by the Studio Museum in Harlem, Artadia, Art Matters, Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, and the Headlands Center for the Arts. Her work is in the permanent collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the California African American Museum in Los Angeles, the Berkeley Art Museum, the Oakland Museum of California, the Walker Art Collection, the Pérez Art Museum in Miami, the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Guggenheim Museum, among others. She has been featured in such publications as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Artforum, and Vogue. Barnette lives and works in Oakland, California, and is represented by Charlie James Gallery in Los Angeles and Jessica Silverman in San Francisco. The artist will have a solo exhibition with Jessica Silverman Gallery in November 2021.

To Visit

To arrange a visit to the Pitzer College Art Galleries, please email Christopher Michno at [email protected].

To visit Sadie Barnette: Legacy & Legend at the Benton, please make a reservation. The Benton is now open by appointment for groups of up to 6 people for one-hour visits.

Appointments are offered Tuesday through Saturday, at 2, 3, 4, and 5 pm.

About Pitzer College Art Galleries

Pitzer College Art Galleries believe in the power of art to inspire, engage, and transform. The Galleries’ exhibitions and programs facilitate inquiry into contemporary and historical issues of importance and reflect Pitzer College’s core values of social responsibility, intercultural understanding, interdisciplinary learning, and environmental sustainability. With a focus on inclusivity, we seek to expand and deepen our understanding of the world around us. Through collaborations and partnerships with artists, and the Pitzer community, we facilitate meaningful engagement across multiple constituencies and disciplines.

About the Benton Museum of Art at Pomona College

Now housed in the new Benton Museum of Art designed by Machado Silvetti and Gensler, Pomona College’s collection of art numbers 16,000 objects, including Italian Renaissance paintings from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation; works on paper, including a first edition print series by Francisco Goya given by Norton Simon; and works in various media produced in Southern California in the twentieth century. In keeping with Pomona College’s reputation as a leading center of the visual arts, the collection also includes works by such esteemed alumni as Chris Burden (’69), Marcia Hafif (’51), Helen Pashgian (’56), Peter Shelton (’73), and James Turrell (’65). Recognized globally for its commitment to contemporary art, the museum is the home of The Project Series, which has featured more than 50 contemporary Southern California artists since it began in 1999. Through its collaboration with students and faculty, the museum encourages active learning and creative exploration across all disciplines of study within the liberal arts context.

About Pitzer College

Pitzer College is a nationally top-ranked undergraduate liberal arts and sciences institution. A member of The Claremont Colleges, Pitzer offers a distinctive approach to a liberal arts education by linking intellectual inquiry with interdisciplinary studies, cultural immersion, social responsibility, and community involvement. For more information, please visit

About Pitzer College Art Galleries

The Pitzer College Art Galleries’ mandate is Education and Advocacy through the Pitzer College core values—social responsibility, intercultural understanding, interdisciplinary learning, student engagement, and environmental sustainability. By following these precepts, Pitzer College Art Galleries engage and interrogate contemporary and historical issues of importance to expand our audiences’ understanding and contribution to our artistic, intellectual, and social culture. Through curatorial creativity and innovative programming, the Galleries seek to provide context, support, and a critical framework for artists and curators working today and, by doing so, inspire meaningful dialogue that fascinates, excites, and invigorates.

For more information, please visit or email [email protected].

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