Review: African American identity, front and center, in Robert Pruitt’s first major L.A. museum show
Los Angeles Times | by Leah Ollman | January 19, 2019
The drawing by Robert Pruitt is searing: A young person does a little night reading on the couch that serves as a bed. A sheet, described only in sinuous lines, cascades down the sofa's back and rises again to sheathe the young reader’s limbs.
Head, one foot and one arm are the only parts uncovered, and Pruitt draws them with exquisite veracity. The hand holds a comic book, fingers touching a giant brick-red hand on the upturned page. A task light clipped resourcefully to the young person’s hair casts a blue light upon the face, where features are pursed in reckoning. The expression seems like some kind of private realization. A call has been heard.
It’s not certain whether "I Turned Myself Into Myself" — a drawing in charcoal, conté and pastel on paper that’s part of a tremendous exhibition at the California African American Museum in Los Angeles — is a self-portrait of Pruitt from an earlier time. The artist, born in Houston and now based in New York, makes comics and animations, in addition to drawings and sculpture that he says derive from "fictional ethnography."
Whether or not "I Turned Myself Into Myself" refers to a turning point of his own, the drawing’s physical presence and emotional intensity are breathtaking. At 60 by 84 inches, the scene is larger than life-size; affixed to the wall unframed (like all of his works on paper here), it has untempered immediacy. Identity is evolving and empowerment happening right there on the page.
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