“Otherness has been at the center of my consciousness since the beginning of my artistic career.” -Deborah Roberts
Austin-based mixed-media artist Deborah Roberts has been interrogating common perceptions of ideal beauty from a young age, unlearning the unattainable and narrow standards set by the likes of renaissance paintings and magazines. “Those images influenced the way I viewed myself and other African Americans,” she shares on her website, “which led me to investigate the way our identities have been imagined and shaped by societal interpretations of beauty.”
“Stereotypes and myths are challenged in my work,” she continues. “I create a dialogue between the ideas of inclusion, dignity, consumption, and subjectivity by addressing beauty in the form of the ideal woman, the Venus. By challenging Venus, my work challenges the notion of universal beauty—making room for women of color who are not included in this definition.”
Roberts has established herself as one of Austin’s most important modern artists and recently wrapped her one-woman show, Deborah Robert: I’m, at The Contemporary Austin followed by a run at the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver. She was also entrusted to collage a portrait of Trayvon Martin for the cover of New York Magazine in honor of the 10-year anniversary of Black Lives Matter, published this week.
As an accompaniment to I’M at The Contemporary Austin, the museum commissioned Pentagram Austin led by Pentagram Partner DJ Stout to design an exhibition catalog, coffee-table book, and interactive website.
Stout and company designed the exhibition catalog (7” x 9”) to be carried around the physical exhibition by viewers. Compact and sleek, it’s the perfect companion for the show.
The hardcover coffee-table book (11” x 14”), however, was designed to display Roberts’ pieces on a larger scale than the catalog would allow. Given the tactile quality of her collage work, the size of the coffee-table book allows for enhanced details for viewers.
The catalog and coffee-table book feature the typeface “Martin” by Tré Seals of Vocal Type, a font inspired by the letters on protest signs carried during the Memphis sanitation workers’ strike in 1968.
Pentagram Austin also designed the online exhibition for I’M. The microsite provides an immersive, virtual tour of the show, as well as more information and images, call-outs from the catalog and coffee-table book, a video from The Contemporary Austin’s Chief Curator, Heather Pesanti, and audio of Deborah Roberts herself reflecting upon her work and practice.
I’M will travel to Art + Practice in Los Angeles in collaboration with the California African American Museum next (March 19 – August 20, 2022) and then at the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens in Jacksonville, FL (September 16 – December 4, 2022).
Pentagram Partner: DJ Stout
Project team: Michelle Maudet and Haley Taylor
Developer: Michelle McGinnis
Project Manager: Anne-Charlotte Patterson (Southern Combustion)
UX Consultant: Anna Donlan
Photographer: Nick Cabrera