Down-to-Earth Women and Space

Installation view of Pruitt’s 2012 drawing, Diasporic Leaps and Bounds, courtesy of the Koplin Del Rio Gallery in Culver City, CA

Installation view of Pruitt’s 2012 drawing, Diasporic Leaps and Bounds, courtesy of the Koplin Del Rio Gallery in Culver City, CA

At the Studio Museum in Harlem’s current show, Robert Pruitt: Women, you’ll get to meet some regal-looking smarties who have a handle on art, space, and day-to-day life. Sandra Bullock’s astro-surfer is the talk of the town, but it’s these dozen-plus beauties, with their feet on the ground, who are soaring into the stratosphere with their intellectual firepower, accessories, and hairdos.

We’re talking about the stunning portraits on display through October 27. Click on the link to see more views of the installation, courtesy of photographer Adam Reich, but you need to get up to 125th Street to meet them in person.

First, it’s astonishing that these grand portraits are done with those first-year art school staples – conté crayon and brown butcher-block paper. Pruitt’s a master of the medium, and the women in his series can definitely hold their own against any Dutch Renaissance doyenne. They’re calm, cool, and collected. Yes, he’s added a touch of color or glint of gold to some detail or another, but it’s the fine hand and the technical mastery that gives each ethereal woman such large-format presence.

Pruitt’s 2011 Dreaming Celestial, featuring a Shuttle pendant suspended against a constellation bodice.

Pruitt’s 2011 Dreaming Celestial, featuring a Shuttle pendant suspended against a constellation bodice.

But there’s another dimension going on, too. Pruitt goes one step further by creating headpieces, outfits and accessories that tantalize art-lovers and science buffs with references to sometimes unknowable realms — art and astrophysics.

Consider the Tatlin-inspired updo coupled with the solar-system tunic in Be of Our Space World, the tiny Space Shuttle pendant and constellation bodice in Dreaming Celestial, the planetary tank top in Sun Fired, the Suprematist-inspired T in El Saturn, the space capsule chapeau and orbit diagram T sported in Diasporic Leaps and Bounds, and those choir-robe-looking outfits embellished with the tiniest of Star Trek logos for the sisters in the corner.

Yes, there are other political and pop references, but the space spin is pretty satisfying, particularly considering that Pruitt’s hometown is Houston.

Installation view of Be of Our Space World, a 2010 work featuring braids fashioned into Tatlin’s Monument to the Third International, courtesy of Houston’s Hooks-Epstein Gallery

Installation view of Be of Our Space World, a 2010 work featuring braids fashioned into Tatlin’s Monument to the Third International, courtesy of Houston’s Hooks-Epstein Gallery

Pruitt’s women are real-world and smart beyond belief — just the type of people we’d like to meet at the next SciCafe or have Dr. Neil interview at an upcoming panel at the planetarium – women whose look tells us they have some super-big insights to share.

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