Robert Pruitt’s New Works Juxtapose African Culture and Space Objects
The drawing is from a new series of twelve drawings that were recently shown in a solo exhibition at the University of Texas, Arlington. In the artist’s words:
“These twelve drawings are the beginning of a new body of work. The images here are sparser in material references than past works. The few adornments and symbols that are visible lean towards abstraction but the works still maintain an adherence to the realistic rendering of the human body as an entry to understanding culture and identity. Notions of traditional cultures are present but more ambiguous. There are a few references to earlier African-American artists. Specifically, Bill Traylor, where one of his inked creatures replaces the panther in a Black is Beautiful slogan, and Meta Warrick Fuller who’s sculpture “Ethiopia Awakening” seems to rise and peek out from a young woman’s afro. The Future and interstellar travel is, as always, a constant presence in the work. Here it takes the form of Starbursts patterns, a Vulcan earpiece, and star systems floating within the skin of some of the figures. One anomaly to this body of work is that they are all untitled. Traditionally, I give my figures names or titles. Here, however, in an effort to give the viewer more agency, I have left out the titles. Mostly in hopes that it gives the viewer more space to find themselves within the work.” –Robert Pruitt, 2016
Drawing imagery from science fiction, comic books, hip hop culture, and images taken from the history of political and social struggle in the United States, Robert Pruitt creates drawings, paintings, and sculptures that explore the complexities at the center of contemporary black identity. In his sculpture he works in a more conceptual mode, using found objects such as syrup bottles, shoe laces, and bubble gum. He often paints portraits of his friends and family dressed in period costume and with props, creating amalgams of different black historical figures, romantic visions of precolonial Africa, and fantasy. Humorous and incisive, Pruitt’s contemporary myth-making allows him to place the everyday within a broader narrative of black cultural self-realization.
American, b. 1975, Houston, Texas, based in Houston, Texas