Robert Pruitt and his fun, serious art

Published on April 5, 2013 by in Miami

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Robert Pruitt, “Sankore Man.”

Miami has never really developed a serious, and secure, African-American art scene. We have black artists, and artists steeped in urban American culture, but it can’t compare to a place like Houston. That city has one of the most thriving and exciting African-American art scenes today, grounded in a long-rooted black community and bolstered by actual institutions such as the Houston Museum of African American Culture.

One of the artists recently featured at that museum (and at the Whitney Biennial), a prime example of the strength of that city’s African American art world, is now showing at General Audience Presents, the space newly opened by Genaro Ambrosino and Lissette Garcia across the street from MOCA: Robert Pruitt.

“Fun With Your New Head” is a collection of large-scale portraits. There is an urban aesthetic in these pictures of friends and neighbors, but that would be a far too simple, and easy, way to describe these works. Pruitt – this is first outing here in Miami – also weaves in cultural, historical and pop references into his subjects. The best of these is the portrait of a man staring straight at us; his tee-shirt reads “Sankore,” which was an ancient center of learning in the fabled (and now so troubled) city of Timbuktu in Mali. His head in encased in a geodesic dome, a direct reference to those famous spheres of Buckminster Fuller. Is this particular guy having fun with his head? Hard to figure, as there is no emotion on his face.

While serious about his explorations of power, cultural symbols, the history of struggles, Pruitt himself seems to want to have a little fun with his work. On opening night, he talked about his love for comics and clichéd futuristic imagery, which he also incorporates into his drawings – often on their heads – giving them sometimes a surreal feel, without any abstraction. Thanks to General Audience for broadening our artistic borders with this exhibit.

 

“Fun With Your New Head” runs through April 27 at General Audience Presents, 769 N.E. 125th St., North Miami; 786-467-0941 or 305-205-8079; www.generalaudiencepresents.com.

 

 

 

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