Since its opening in 1954 as the first modern art museum in Texas, the McNay has been committed to being the city’s destination of beauty and belonging. True Believers: Benny Andrews & Deborah Roberts is the latest in a line of McNay exhibitions that demonstrates the Museum’s increasing commitment to the city’s diverse community, bringing outstanding art to all of San Antonio.
True Believers is the first exhibition to examine the formal and thematic overlaps in the work of two artists separated by a generation: Benny Andrews (1930–2006) and Deborah Roberts (born 1962). The exhibition was forged through deep connections between the artists’ mutual use of collage and choice of subject matter. The exhibition’s title was inspired by Roberts’ work in the McNay’s collection, both artists’ emphasis on the role of Black Americans in society, as well as art’s capacity for social change.
Each artist has a distinct voice and a unique approach to collage, a technique strongly tied to the McNay’s history and collection. Founder Marion Koogler McNay’s acquisition of a 1912 still life collage by Spanish artist Pablo Picasso ensured that the art form would have lasting impact on the Museum. Both Andrews and Roberts draw viewer attention to the individual portrayed by placing subjects on stark backgrounds, and they also merge collage with painting to render powerful and heartfelt narratives.
Benny Andrews and Deborah Roberts can be called true believers—honest in their portrayal of Black life and faithful to their individual passions. Through their beliefs they create art for all.
True Believers: Benny Andrews & Deborah Roberts is organized for the McNay Art Museum by René Paul Barilleaux, Head of Curatorial Affairs; and Lauren Thompson, Assistant Curator.
Lead funding is most generously provided by The Brown Foundation, Inc. Major funding is provided by Alturas Foundation and the McCombs Foundation. Additional support is provided by The Flora Crichton Visiting Artist Fund, The Henry Luce Foundation, Inc., Semmes Foundation, Inc., Forrest & Cynthia Miller, and the Host Committee, chaired by Robert K. Brown & Dennis B. Karbach.
In 1930, Benny Andrews was born into a large family in Plainview, Georgia, to parents who enthusiastically supported his artistic ambitions. Throughout a nearly fifty-year career, Andrews worked primarily in painting, collage, and drawing, rooting his practice in a wholehearted commitment to both creative exploration and social advocacy.
Deborah Roberts was born in 1962 in Austin, Texas, where she still lives and works. She utilizes painting, collage, and sculpture to call attention to the ways in which society values certain notions of childhood, beauty, and identity.
Associate Curator, Permanent Collection, at The Studio Museum in Harlem, Connie H. Choi discusses many of the themes depicted in the artworks included in this exhibition through a series of short essays. Spread throughout this publication and enveloped by images, Choi’s words place the art within a broader context of artist biography, current events, artistic practice, social justice, and the Black experience in America. Choi’s contributions also take the form of collage—collages of words and ideas that sensitively illuminate each artist’s work.
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