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Robert Pruitt.

Mary Goldman Gallery, Los Angeles CA March 15 * April 19, 2008

The Alcubierre Metric, also known as the "Alcubierre Drive" or "Warp Drive," is a speculative mathematical model of space-time travel, exhibiting features reminiscent of the fictional faster-than-light mode of transport in the Star Trek series. Beginning with this space-stretching model, Robert Pruitt's "Two Tears in a Bucket: Considering The Alcubierre Metric" has taken on the task of accelerating history as it pertains to the experience of growing up as a black person in the U.S. In this collection of Conte-on-Kraft-paper drawings and readymade sculptures, Pruitt accelerates the past, bringing it into accord with a more convoluted, back-to-the-future present whereby issues of race are examined through a variety of visual styles, creating undaunted images that command our attention even as they span the centuries.

Art that embraces a strong political agenda right at the outset is always a risky business, and while Pruitt does occasionally stray from his own intentions into more banal territory, the project as a whole is both economical and unrelenting in its imagination and facture. Working with both unique gesture and found objects, Pruitt attempts to decode established myths of the "black experience," allowing its inherent durability to be less apprehended than demarcated as a vital and ongoing historical time machine.

Ferocious Cat (all work 2008) shows a young bearded dude holding a down-turned axe, while the other hand makes a fist, his body turned slightly to the side. His obvious displeasure is somewhat offset by a funny, traditional-looking duck hat on his head, though strangely the creature's sappy gaze only heightens the drama of this scene rather than actively detract from it. Consequently, the duck appears equally impassioned, suffusing the man's gruff gaze with its own daffy intensity. In a similar vein, Invisible Man depicts another cat in leather jacket, arms akimbo, with a brown paper bag over his head announcing "FREE FOOD."

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As if to put paid to any lingering doubt over his particular intent, Pruitt's readymade sculptures are much more forthright. You Know How We Think (after Ronald Hartgrove) comprises a shapely Mrs. Butterworth maple syrup bottle--an iconic image of the constructed black persona--wearing a traditional headdress worn in African tribal cultures. The piece is based on the famous 1969 Ronald Hartgrove sculpture of a coke bottle painted black with a white rag wick sticking out of it. Thinking Cap is a typical black gangsta cap on a pedestal, illuminated from beneath. Again, Pruitt subverts time-honored preconceptions with their present-day corollaries, extending the dialogue to accommodate both irony and hard-hitting critique. Pruitt's work ultimately resists didacticism, forging instead a compelling restaging of both public and private received ideologies.
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Author:Wood, Eve
Publication:ArtUS
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 22, 2008
Words:448
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