Sadie Barnette: Legacy & Legend

July 22–December 18, 2021

Installation view of Sadie Barnette: Legacy and Legend at Pitzer College Art Galleries (Lenzner Family Art Gallery) at Pitzer College, July 22 to December 18, 2021. This exhibition is co-organized with the Benton Museum of Art at Pomona College. Photography courtesy of Fredrik Nilsen Studio.

Sadie Barnette: Legacy & Legend, a partnership between the Benton Museum of Art at Pomona College and Pitzer College Art Galleries, is the artist’s most ambitious exhibition to date. The Benton will exhibit a major new body of work that expands upon themes the artist has explored in an earlier project, Dear 1968,… (2017), and Pitzer will show an installation featuring Barnette’s signature reimagining of domestic spaces as futuristic, other-worldly locations of liberation and restoration.

Dear 1968,… focused on the 500-page surveillance dossier amassed by the FBI on the artist’s father, Rodney Barnette, who founded the Compton chapter of the Black Panther Party in 1968 and was a lifelong activist in the Black liberation movement. This dossier reveals the intimidation tactics that the FBI used to harass the elder Barnette and his community as a whole. In this earlier project, the artist reclaimed these files by adorning them with bright pink spray paint, glitter, and rhinestones in the spirit of youthful graffiti. Her embellishments transformed symbols of oppression into emblems of a community’s strength and resilience. 

At the Benton, Barnette will present new work from her FBI Drawings series, the most recent iteration of her continued interrogation of the FBI files. These 60-by-48 inch drawings, in densely applied graphite on stark white paper, enlarge and invert complete pages from the FBI dossier. To them Barnette adds images of roses and other decorative domestic items to honor, mourn, memorialize, and reclaim life. For Barnette, 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.” The exhibition will also feature Barnette’s trademark glittering pink wall paint and holographic objects.

Pitzer College Art Galleries will present an installation of an immersive living room created by Barnette that incorporates drawings, sculptures, found objects, photographs, seating arrangements, and sound systems that have been adorned with holographic vinyl, glitter, aerosol paint, and wallpaper. Oscillating between the past and present, these elements invoke familial and community histories and present-day experiences.

With these powerful new bodies of work on exhibit at the Benton Museum of Art and the Pitzer College Art Galleries, Barnette gestures toward a recuperative and emancipatory space for imagining alternative futures. She reclaims the records of a repressive past and situates her father’s activism in the social history of California and the global histories of repression and resistance, making the intimate bond between father and daughter into an artistic practice that reveals quintessential American truths.

Curators and Sponsor

Sadie Barnette: Legacy & Legend is curated by Ciara Ennis, director at Pitzer College Art Galleries, and Rebecca McGrew, senior curator at the Benton. The exhibition is the third collaboration between the two institutions and the fifty-fourth exhibition in the Benton’s Project Series. The Benton will publish a 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


Sadie Barnette ( holds a BFA from CalArts and an MFA from 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 institutions such as: the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; California African American Museum, Los Angeles; Berkeley Art Museum; Oakland Museum of California; Pérez Art Museum, Miami; Studio Museum in Harlem; Brooklyn Museum; and the Guggenheim Museum. She has been featured in publications including The New York TimesLos Angeles TimesArtforum, and Vogue. Barnette lives and works in Oakland, CA, and is represented by Charlie James Gallery in Los Angeles and Jessica Silverman in San Francisco.

Press Release | PDF


‘You can’t surveil our souls’: Sadie Barnette reclaims her dad’s story from the FBI, by Ian F. Blair, in the LA Times, August 18, 2021

Sadie Barnette opening reception and artist talk, by Hannah Weaver, in The Student Life, November 12, 2021


Sadie Barnette Artist Talk and Opening Reception
Saturday, November 6, 2021, 4:00 – 6:00 p.m.

Murray Pepper and Vicki Reynolds Pepper Distinguished Visiting Artist & Scholar Lecture: Sadie Barnette, Rodney Barnette, and Ericka Huggins in conversation

Tuesday, December 7, 2021, 4:15 p.m.