Deborah Roberts’s Dream Deferred, for Now

By Robin Pogrebin
Deborah Roberts, “Political Lambs in a Wolf’s World”(2018), mixed media on paper. Unusual shifts in scale and dramatic amalgams of several faces define her work. Arms hold a numbered placard, as in a police mugshot.Credit...Deborah Roberts and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London and Vielmetter Los Angeles
Deborah Roberts could have given up long ago. With a mother who worked as a maid and a father who worked as an electrical lineman for the city of Austin, Tex., she grew up trading her drawings of cars, horses, dolls and airplanes for her classmates’ fat red pencils. Her parents did not understand her passion. “My daddy hated art and said it was never going to be nothing,” Ms. Roberts said. At age 57, Ms. Roberts is about to have her first solo museum exhibition — a big deal for any artist, but especially gratifying for one who, four years ago, was working in a shoe store to pay the bills. Ms. Roberts, who has a big personality and a bigger smile, also hasn’t let the pandemic set her back, though it has pushed her debut at the Contemporary Austin in Texas to January from September — assuming the virus abates by then, as hoped. [More]
Deborah Roberts explores notions of beauty, identity and race through collage-based portraits of black children. She was an artist in residence at the Rauschenberg Foundation in Captiva, Fla., in 2019.Credit...Deborah Roberts and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London and Vielmetter Los Angeles; Mark Poucher