The Black House (Payback's A Bitch)

A New Artwork By Willie Torbert



“I think it’s a wake-up call for everybody. Hey, this could be you, kids! You know... Don’t think you’re on top of the world. Shit can flip, and all of a sudden you’re on the fricken bottom. I just want people to be aware, that- what if it was you?”  - W. Torbert





DETOUR Gallery is excited to present artist, Willie Torbert, discussing his most recent work entitled The Black House (Payback's A B#$ch), 2021.


In this video, you will hear Willie speak about how this work came to be, his inspiration and creative process behind the piece, and his memories of visiting his grandmother's house down south, in Alabama, as a young child. 

This piece is to be featured in The Art Newspaper February 2022 Edition.





The Black House (Payback's A Bitch)

48 x 96" inches

Diptych; Mixed media collage on wood panel 





"At the heart of The Black House, is an unusual scene of nobility, beauty, royalty, Black pride, and bloodshed. Folklore artist, Willie Torbert, has created a stunning plantation of angelic pom poms of white cotton. The majesty of a Black gangster president and his queen, who are on a stroll are the center of attention, is an imaginative Afro Futurist narrative of American History, inverted, turned upside down.


Befitting of the Inversion series, by Torbert, The Black House shocks you and crystallizes that looks can be deceiving. Your gaze is set-on the splendor of the landscape and then you start to see, as Torbert, directs your eye through the rows of clean white cotton, that at first camouflages the inhumanity being waged against the White bodies of enslaved people.


The Black House plantation, on a literal tip conjures up Black Like Me, by John Howard Griffin, about a White man who went undercover in the deep South, darkening his skin as a Black man, in 1960.  The question the artist seems to be asking is this: Can White people ever know what it feels like to be Black in America?  


The pain inflicted on the White slaves, in this rendering, by the ruling class of Black nobility and elite is and of itself, futuristic, yet, not cut from the same cloth as a Black Panther Wakanda forever moment.  Torbert makes you see the dearth of Black existence on the naked bodies of White people, hung out to dry like curing meat.


What if. . . "


- Written by Gilda Rogers | Executive Director - T. Thomas Fortune Foundation & Cultural Center, Red Bank, NJ





Hired by the New York City Board of Education, Willie Torbert taught in the public school system for ten years. During his tenure there, Willie exposed his students to many facets of art through an array of mediums. When he moved away from his teaching job to concentrate on his craft full time, Howard Golden, then the Brooklyn Borough President (1977-2001), bestowed the Award of Meritorious Teacher, which was seldom given, to Torbert. The accolade was warranted, because of Torbert’s dedication to the immensely talented yet too often disenfranchised young art students of Brooklyn.


Torbert has spent his life exploring African American culture through creative and complex collage art. He produces highly stylized representations of a wide variety of mostly Afro-Centric themes from musicians and heroic warriors to everyday people. By building up layers of various mediums including collage, watercolor, printmaking and pencil techniques, he has masterfully created his repertoire of textures and patterns to depict composite scenes of African American life.


Torbert’s work has found a home in some of the most prominent collections in the World as well as in Museum shows. His most recent Museum showing was in the Taubman Museum with their show Reclamation! Pan-African Works from the Beth Rudin DeWoody Collection.



January 19, 2022