By -- Leah Ollman, Los Angeles Times | August 19, 2011 | 6:45 am
The figures in Robert Pruitt’s engrossing drawings at Koplin Del Rio are individuals that he knows, transformed through costumes and props into characters within a larger narrative of cultural, historical, ethnic self-realization. Pruitt folds a panoply of disparate ingredients into the mix — comic book graphics, hip-hop style, science fiction futurism, ‘60s-era black power activism, a romanticized vision of precolonial Africa — and delivers a jarring kind of symbolic realism, equal parts heat, humor and humanism.
The pregnant woman in “Flux” sits on a boombox, her neck strung with timekeepers and talismans. Digital, analog, tribal and retro-futuristic blend with straightfaced ease. “Dreaming Celestial” features a woman in an old-fashioned, high-collared dress, the bodice studded with a constellation of silver stars. A space shuttle pendant hangs anachronistically around her neck.
Pruitt, based in Houston, draws with deliberation and grace, in conscious homage to the prints and drawings of Charles White as well as the cosmic philosophy of Sun Ra. Each of his figures is at once politically charged, physically grounded and fantastic, an amalgam of willful self-determination and culturally conditioned myth. Like so many of his generation (born in the ‘70s, schooled in the ‘90s), Pruitt himself shape-shifts, moving fluidly across media. Two short animations and a pair of aluminum foil sculptures accompany the drawings. He also works in installation and performance. Smart and nimble, he’s a consciousness-raiser.