Robert Pruitt’s work reflects his cultural duality as a black man living and working in Houston. His sculptures,such as Headdress with Lugar Pistol (2011), and the series of photographs created during his residency at FWM, Untitled Photographs (2011), deftly weave the simmering violence in contemporary American culture into a collaged narrative of tradition and pageantry. Pruitt’s intuitive approach to his FWM project included intensive research of early photography, popular culture, and science-fiction imagery, all of which resulted in a series of eight archival pigment prints. These “royal” portraits of a fictional African family’s ancestry portray how a member might present himself or herself to his or her public. FWM exhibited these photographs alongside objects that elaborate Pruitt’s collage of ideas: embellished costumes, headdresses, and guns that were worn by the “royal” family in their portraits.
Pruitt is known for his large, stark drawings: portraits on kraft paper, poetic odes to individuals simultaneously embracing and resisting the cultural codes of their childhood. The influence of stereotype can be insidious; the act of resistance is often quirky and deeply personal. Pruitt’s drawings capture this. With these new photographs and sculpture, Pruitt pushed his resistance into a fictional narrative past tense, intertwining current conceptual practice into the traditional idiom of the formal portrait, confronting an African past with an American present and creating a body of work that advances his practice significantly.