Sable Elyse Smith Coloring Book 57 2020

  • MoMA, Floor 4, 415 The David Geffen Galleries

Though Smith was born over a decade after the art in this gallery was made, her work focuses on many of the same persistent social and political problems that her predecessors addressed. In 2015 she found a coloring book of activities meant to introduce children to the criminal court system. It included images of a metal detector, a jury box, and a smiling “Judge Friendly” character designed to soften the underlying trauma of standing trial. Smith filled the enlarged pages with brightly colored oil stick, obscuring and highlighting the original imagery. Scribbling outside the lines, Smith shows how these structures might be undermined, and creates an insurgent possibility for imagining freedom.

Gallery label from 2024
Additional text

What do you notice?

The artist Sable Elyse Smith found this coloring book on 125th Street in Harlem, New York City. It was made for kids to color while waiting to visit someone at a prison or court. Waiting for someone you love in a strange new place can be scary. What is something you do that makes you feel better when you’re worried or scared?

Kids label from 2024
Screenprint with oil stick
sheet: 60 × 50" (152.4 × 127 cm) frame: 63 1/2 × 53 1/4 × 2" (161.3 × 135.3 × 5.1 cm)
Fund for the Twenty-First Century
Object number
Drawings and Prints

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