(Born 1984, Oakland, CA)
Family Style 2
Vinyl window cover, couch, wallpaper, LED lights, and framed photograph
Sadie Barnette channels the past into the present by building spaces of connection and refuge. Throughout her work, she brings together newly created sculptures and bright layers with drawings, artifacts, family heirlooms, and stand-out phrases to compose moods and scenes. She has long been captivated by the living room as a space of personal significance, intimate gathering, and political possibility. As Barnette notes, “The living room has witnessed dance parties, sermons, the best debaters and orators, and held space for hospice, loss, grief, flowers, and meals. . . . I think of all the big and small moments — the unforgettable and the mundane, unfolding right there in the parlor.”
For Staying Power, Barnette created a storefront living room display built around a sparkled couch, Afro pick wallpaper, and a framed photograph of her Aunt Vivian. After virtually touring the Germantown Avenue mixed commercial and residential corridor last year, the artist focused on the Village Community Storefront as a place to mark public and personal imagination and resistance. Her project is a living love letter to the neighborhood and the city. As Barnette adds, “From Oakland to Compton to Philadelphia, Black families create spaces of safety, warmth, and witness, as the world outside continues to offer violence and never justice. . . . This work honors the unseen moments of everyday radicality and the fierce hospitality animating unassuming family homes across the country and across the decades.”
This collective exhibition asks the question, “What is your staying power?” It is hard to hold steady these days, but when I think of strength and power, I think of my family’s living room. The way we hold it down, and protect and hold and behold each other in these common but sacred spaces, is what I see as our greatest staying power. Love is the rock.
The living room has witnessed dance parties, sermons, the best debaters and orators, and held space for hospice, loss, grief, flowers, and meals. The room I’m remembering was in the home of my aunt and uncle in Compton, California. In 1954, Alvin and Margaret White moved across the country from West Medford, Massachusetts, and were the first Black family on the block. When I think of the arc of history that they lived, as Compton, and the world, changed, I think of all the big and small moments — the unforgettable and the mundane, unfolding right there in the parlor. Their door was always open to family.
From Oakland to Compton to Philadelphia, Black families create spaces of safety, warmth, and witness, as the world outside continues to offer violence and never justice. At the invitation of Monument Lab and North Philly’s Village of Arts and Humanities, I am constructing a glittering living room scene in the 2558 Germantown Avenue storefront space. This work honors the unseen moments of everyday radicality and the fierce hospitality animating unassuming family homes across the country and across the decades . . . from the magical matriarchy of my aunties to Ms. Nandi’s legendary living room “candy shop.”
Sadie Barnette’s multimedia practice illuminates her own family history as it mirrors a collective history of repression and resistance in the United States. The last born of the last born, and hence the youngest of her generation, Barnette holds a long and deep fascination with the personal and political value of kin. Her adept materialization of the archive rises above a static reverence for the past; by inserting herself into the retelling, she offers a history that is alive. Recent projects include the reclamation of a five-hundred-page FBI surveillance file amassed on her father during his time with the Black Panther Party and her interactive reimagining of his bar, San Francisco’s first Black-owned gay bar. Barnette is from Oakland, California, and holds a BFA from California Institute of the Arts and an MFA from the University of California, San Diego. She has been awarded grants and residencies by the Studio Museum in Harlem, Art Matters, Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, the Headlands Center for the Arts, and the Camargo Foundation in France. Her work is in the collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Oakland Museum of California, the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, among others. She is represented by Charlie James Gallery in Los Angeles and Jessica Silverman in San Francisco.