Koplin Del Rio is pleased to announce its debut solo exhibition of work by Houston artist Robert Pruitt. Titled Them From After The End Of The World, the show will consist of several large format mixed media drawings on hand dyed paper. With this body of work Pruitt is particularly interested in the historic notion of ‘black escape’, a desire to be free from the literal and psychological constraints that have created a stifled and ‘mis-educated’ black identity reaching back to slavery. With individual narratives, each figure becomes a conduit for Pruitt to further explore the possibility of a utopian existence rich with African culture and totems, living keenly in an ultra modern western world. Pruitt explains his own embellishment on the theme of ‘black escape’ as such; “I pair this desire with my own escapist indulgence in science fiction and technology, a romanticized view of the disadvantaged black masses, and a nostalgia for a mythic Africa”. Each portrait captures its subject in a moment of readiness, prepared to embark on a fantastic journey, an escape. Through various means – space flight, time travel, inter-dimensional portals – at long last they will reach their desired destinations transcending reality. Steeped in visual and thematic references to Afrofuturism and Afrocentrism, the pieces confer honor upon the tradition of imbibing music, art, literature and academia with futuristic themes as a mode of exploring deeper social issues. In the work titled “El Saturn” (and also in the title of the show, Them From After The End Of The World), Pruitt is giving a direct nod to highly influential musician Sun Ra whose groundbreaking work from the mid 1950’s into the early 1990’s laid the groundwork for a fresh expression of black identity that was multi-dimensional, self-actualized and bathed in futuristic symbology. In the portrait a woman stands, gazing directly at the viewer, her expression is that of someone who has been waiting a long time for what is to come. On her white T-shirt is the outline of a simple graphic black pyramid. Nestled in her modest Afro is a neon sign reading “El Saturn”…. that is the destination, not the literal place but everything it represents with regard to identity and freedom. In another work, titled “Flux”, a pregnant woman sits in waiting, she looks off to the right as if someone may have just called her to the journey she is clearly ready to embark upon. Around her neck rests a number of devices that all relate to time such as an atomic clock and an African drum, on her wrist an Akan Sankofa is fashioned into a bracelet.
Robert Pruitt was born in 1975 in Houston Texas. He received his BFA from Texas Southern University and a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Texas at Austin. He is a founding member of the artist collective Otabenga Jones & Associates. Pruitt creates sculpture, drawing, video, and installation works about the dichotomy of the black experience in America, and the impact of black cultural production on the global landscape. He has exhibited his work at, The Fabric Workshop and Museum in Boston, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, The Dallas Museum of Art, The Studio Museum of Harlem, and was a participating artist in the 2006 Whitney Biennial and the 2010 SITE Santa Fe Biennial which traveled to MoMA PS1 in New York. Pruitt is a recipient of the Artadia Artist Award in 2004, and a Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation award in 2008.