Awardee: Robert Pruitt

Visual Arts, 2008

Robert Pruitt (b. 1975) is a Native of Houston Texas. He earned his BA from Texas Southern University and a MFAfrom the University of Texas in Austin, with a focus on painting and drawing. Pruitt works in a variety of materials but his practice is chiefly centered on rendering portraits of the human body, specifically the black body. He projects onto these bodies a juxtaposing series of experiences and material references, denoting a diverse and radical black experience and future. Although Pruitt leads a steady solo practice he also pursues an active collaborative impulse. He is a founding member of a number of artist groups including Otabenga Jones & Associates, MF Problem (with his girlfriend and artist Autumn Knight) and a loose collective of local Houston artists sometimes working under the name STACKS collective. He is Co-Director of Houston Open Studio Tours.

He has exhibited his work locally, nationally and internationally, notably at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, The Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, The Dallas Museum of Art, The Bronx Museum of Art, the 2006 Whitney Biennial and most recently a solo exhibition at the Studio Museum of Harlem.

Project: The People's Plate

Through a collaborative art project/public health program, Otabenga Jones & Associates will attempt to mitigate the ongoing health crisis of obesity and its related risks. The Collective will create a public mural at the Lawndale Art Center along with a series of adjacent programs, kicking off a year-long commitment to health education. Programs will include cooking classes, a foraging workshop, an urban gardening workshop, an instructional cooking video and a line of mass produced lunchboxes that will be made available to the public. Inspired by the Black Panther Free Breakfast for School Children Program, which saw the Panthers cooking and serving breakfast to poor inner city children, the Collective aims to provide at-risk community members with a set of tools that will encourage self-sufficiency and empowerment in terms of maintaining their own health through food choices while building community. The graphic identity of the project, including the Lawndale mural and lunch kits for kids, will incorporate iconic imagery by graphic artist and Black Panther Minister of Culture Emory Douglas.

Collab: Otabenga Jones & Associates

Otabenga Jones & Associates is a Houston-based educational art organization founded in 2002 by artist and educator Otabenga Jones in collaboration with members Dawolu Jabari Anderson, Jamal Cyrus, Kenya Evans and Robert A. Pruitt, among others. The group’s pedagogical mission, manifested in the form of actions, writings and installations, is threefold: to underscore the challenging intricacies of representation across the African Diaspora; to establish a cross generational progression emanating from the transatlantic experience; and, as they write in their mission statement, quoting from Sam Greenlee’s 1969 classic satirical novel The Spook Who Sat by the Door, “to mess wit’ whitey.”