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Galleries are closed for installation until April 12, 2024.

UC Santa Cruz Logo Institute of the Arts and Sciences
UC Santa Cruz Logo

Sadie Barnette

Family Business

March 10 - December 10, 2023


April 28 - December 10, 2023
100 Panetta Ave, Santa Cruz, CA
Hours: 12- 5 p.m. Daily
(Closed Mondays)


March 10 - October 15, 2023
110 S. Market St., San José, CA
Hours: Thursday 4–9PM
Friday 11AM–9PM
Saturday and Sunday 11AM–6PM
(Closed Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday)

a silver vinyl covered sofa in front of a wallpapered walll

Across two venues, the Institute of the Arts and Sciences and San José Museum of Art, Sadie Barnette: Family Business explores the carceral state’s reach into the intimate world of the family.

On view at SJMA, a newly commissioned work transforms the museum into a fantasy domestic space, complete with glitter vinyl covered furniture and family photographs hung on the wall. Within this space, Barnette explores her family history as a mirror into a collective history of repression and resistance in the United States. The gallery turned into a living room serves as a reminder that domestic spaces—like the streets—are also the backdrop of Black history in the U.S. Homes are where protests are planned, relationships nurtured, and where Black families love and thrive on a daily basis. This is an alternate history of Black America, outside of state control, which Barnette manifests, with space for relationships, love, family, and hope—all which make up the fullness of human experience despite being omitted from official state documents and histories.

At the IAS, this exploration of the personal and the political continues with a suite of large scale drawings reclaiming and reworking files from the dossier compiled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation about Barnette’s father’s activities as the founder of the Compton chapter of the Black Panther Party. The 500-page surveillance file amassed on her father, Rodney Barnette, which serves as the material for Barnette’s manipulations, reveals that his everyday movements and activities were under constant surveillance. Barnette creates monumental and painstaking graphite drawings of these clinical documents, covering them with roses and Hello Kitty profiles, adding a layer of joy and intimacy to these records of state-sanctioned terror. At once tender and terrifying, the FBI Drawings suggest ways of imagining repair and renewal outside of the political structures that artificially delimit freedom. 

Sadie Barnette: Family Business is a multi-sited exhibition curated by Gina Dent, Lauren Schell Dickens, and Rachel Nelson as part of Visualizing Abolition, a multi-year Mellon-funded initiative exploring art, prisons, and justice.

About the Artist (Tab to skip section.)

About the Artist

Sadie Barnette’s multimedia practice draws on her own family history as it mirrors a collective history of repression and resistance in the United States. She holds a BFA from CalArts and an MFA from the University of California, San Diego. Barnette has been awarded numerous grants and residences, and her work has been exhibited in solo shows at institutions ranging from The Kitchen in New York to ICA Los Angeles. She lives in and works in Oakland, CA.
Photo credit: Damien Maloney, Courtesy of the artist