Current Exhibitions

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

Sadie Barnette: Legacy & Legend opens July 22, 2021 at both venues.

To visit Sadie Barnette: Legacy & Legend at Pitzer College Art Galleries, Lenzner Family Art Gallery please make a reservation. Appointments to visit the installation at Pitzer are offered Tuesday through Saturday. Guests are required to complete a COVID questionnaire the day of their viewing appointment, prior to arriving on campus.

To visit the Benton Museum of Art, please make a reservation here.

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

Jenny Perlin: Maelstrom

September 11–December 11, 2021

Jenny Perlin, Maelstrom (2020)16mm hand-processed high contrast film, black and white, sound, 5:10

Jenny Perlin: Maelstrom will be on view at Pitzer College Art GalleriesNichols Gallery. To visit, please make a reservation. Appointments to visit the installation at Pitzer are offered Tuesday through Saturday. Guests are required to complete a COVID questionnaire the day of their viewing appointment, prior to arriving on campus.

Taking its title from Edgar Allan Poe’s short story Descent into the Maelstrom(1841), the exhibition features three new bodies of work: Maelstrom (2021), a 16 mm film; 100 Seconds to Midnight (2021), a series of forty-six black and white photographs; and Bunker (2021), a full-length feature film. Poe’s story recounts a terrifying tale of a ship pulled into a monstrous whirlpool near the Lofoten Islands in Norway, which is narrated from a rocky mountain overlooking the sea.The vertiginous framing and the storyteller’s dizzying tale plunge the reader into the detailed horror of the experience, which Perlin captures in her 16 mm film. In addition to hand-drawn whirlpoolsand floods, the film includes images from a storm-tossed ferry ride in New York harbor—just before the COVID 19 pandemic arrived on those shores—which suggest a loss of mooring and a desire for the unknown. Poe’s writings during the turbulent, unstable period of early 1800s America hold a mirror up to our own.

Maelstrom (2020), 16mm hand-processed high contrast film, black and white, sound, 5:10

Maelstrom is a 16mm black and white animated film made up of hand-written text and drawn images. The film is processed by hand using large quantities of photographic chemistry. As a result, scratch marks, camera flaws, and other physical effects are visible on its surface, which gives it a raw, unpolished, and magical appearance. In addition to hand-drawn images of whirlpools, floods, and maps from historical and contemporary sources, the film includes evocative language from Poe, Herman Melville, and the Oxford English Dictionary. Images from a storm-tossed ferry ride in New York harbor—just before the COVID 19 pandemic arrived on those shores—present a loss of mooring and a desire for the unknown. Poe’s writings during the turbulent, unstable period of early 1800s America hold a mirror up to our own.

For more on Maelstrom, visit Jenny Perlin’s website.

100 Seconds to Midnight (2021), Forty-six 35mm black and white photographs, each 8 x 10 inches

100 Seconds to Midnight comprises a series of black and white photographs of houses with underground bunkers built in the Los Angeles area between 1940 and 2021. Although originally intended as nuclear shelters, many of these bunkers have been repurposed as storage areas or wine cellars. New home construction for the wealthy in Los Angeles also often includes safe rooms, subterranean shelters, and other retreats from various threats. This series was inspired by a real estate listing for a patch of desert two hours east of Los Angeles, which pictured two images, a flat steel plate sunk in the ground and a dark underground room made from cinder blocks. Upon arriving at the site, Perlin was confronted with a heavy locked steel door embedded in the sand, which she described as “replete with narratives, dreams, and speculation.” The title of this series refers to the current setting of the Doomsday Clock, invented by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists in 1947 after the bombing of Hiroshima. The clock, originally set at seven minutes to midnight, is an image meant to picture global proximity to human-created catastrophe. The current setting of 100 seconds to midnight is the closest the clock has ever been to the hour of reckoning.

Bunker (2021), HD, color, sound, 90 minutes

Bunker is a feature film about people who sell subterranean living space and those that live underground. Completed just before the 2020 U.S. Presidential elections, Bunker depicts the crafting of exclusive underground shelters across the U.S. and the conversion of missile silos into subterranean skyscrapers, whose high-end condos now sell for millions of dollars. The film also provides an intimate look at men who have, for various reasons, devoted their lives to reclaiming and inhabiting repurposed Cold War sites.

I started traveling to meet people living underground in former missile silos and munitions bunkers in the American Midwest in early 2018, after spending a year contending with the result of the 2016 elections. The project seemed a necessary way to try to revisit and reclaim some of my own upbringing. I knew there was more to the place than the way the media portrayed it. 

People ask me why I make these trips alone and how I can deal with spending days and nights underground talking with strange men who like to declaim their philosophies for hours on end. In short, I suppose that talking to others allows for a kind of dissolution that I find both satisfying and strange. As the conversation continues, it’s not at all that I agree with their perspective, but that their person-ness is present before me, and in the context in which they are speaking, it is simply logical that what they are saying comes out of them. Only later, usually as I’m transcribing the interview, does it hit me where I’ve been. But by then, the empathy is there too, all mixed in.”

Jenny Perlin, January 2021

Jenny Perlin has written more on her film Bunker at her substack, Beyond Place.


Jenny Perlin: Maelstrom is curated by Ciara Ennis, Director of Pitzer College Art Galleries.


Brooklyn, NY-based artist Jenny Perlin makes films, videos, installations, and drawings. Her projects draw on interdisciplinary research interests in history, cultural studies, literature and linguistics. Her films incorporate innovative techniques to investigate history as it relates to the present. Perlin shoots 16mm film and digital video and combines live-action, staged, and documentary images with hand-drawn, text-based animation.

Her films have been shown as single-channel works and multi-channel installations at numerous venues including the Guggenheim Museum, the Whitney, MoMA, Mass MoCA, the Guangzhou Triennial, IFC Center, Berlin and Rotterdam film festivals, the Drawing Center, and The Kitchen, NY. Support has come from the LEF Foundation, NYSCA, Experimental Television Center, CEC Artslink, American Center, Geneva, and the Arnold Foundation. Artist residencies include IASPIS Sweden, Wexner Center, Civitella Ranieri, ISCP, and commissions from Bard College CCS, Aldrich Museum, BAC Geneva, The Queens Museum, and Expo 02, Switzerland.

She received her BA from Brown University in Literature and Society (Modern Culture and Media), her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in Film, and completed postgraduate studies at the Whitney Independent Study Program in New York.