Austin artist’s mural installed downtown ahead of landmark show

The pandemic may have postponed artist Deborah Roberts’ first solo exhibition “I’m” at the Texas Museum until January 23, 2021, but visitors can now view one of her works.

Little Man, Little Man was installed along the downtown Austin Jones Center contemporary. It is the first outdoor mural for the Austin-born artist and museum.

Roberts uses mixed media from photography, magazines, and the internet on paper and canvas to depict African American children. Her work aims to initiate conversations about beauty, race and identity in modern society and invites her audience to examine how social pressures, violence and even acquired norms affect how children who are still one of the most important the most vulnerable groups of people are growing up. It is obviously particularly relevant work for the moment.

Little Man, Little Man shows collaged images of a young black boy in various gestures printed on weatherproof vinyl and installed on the facade of the Jones Center along 7th Street off Congress Avenue.

The work is titled after James Baldwin’s Little Man, Little Man, a 1976 children’s book that articulates the joys and struggles of black childhood through the adventures of a four-year-old boy in Harlem.

As Roberts noted, “I wanted this collage work to demonstrate the emotional, solemn energy of this young child trying to find their way into adulthood without being targeted or criminalized.”

In addition to the mural, Roberts is presenting a selection of brand new works, including collages, paintings and an interactive sound, text and video installation. Although The Contemporary Austin is currently closed to visitors, the “I’m” exhibition will be on view at the Jones Center from January 23 to August 15, 2021.

Chief Curator and Director of Curatorial Affairs, Heather Pesanti, who organized the exhibition, said, “Deborah’s work is incredibly resonant on many levels, as evidenced by this open-air public work of art, centrally located in the heart of downtown Austin just blocks from the Located in the State Capitol, with themes that summarize the unique experiences and perspectives of a young black child in America and a larger-than-life scale traversing the outside wall of the museum, Little Man, Little Man is both hopeful and powerful. “

The young man in Little Man, Little Man is a complex, welcoming character: he has an open, curious face; playful yet careful body language; and vibrant clothing, including the pale blue and red details of his hoodie that invite the viewer to look closely and appreciate the child’s perspective and autonomy.

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