CAAM Has Another Winning Season

Nina Chanel Abney, Untitled (FUCK T*E *OP), 2014
The California Museum of African American Art is having another brilliant season, and that is starting to be reflected in attendance. Part of that is due to the extraordinary buzz surrounding Nina Chanel Abney. A decade after getting her MFA, Abney has a Nasher Museum-organized, four-city retrospective, "Nina Chanel Abney: Royal Flush." Now in LA, it's split between CAAM and ICA LA. Before "Royal Flush" ends its run next year, a second Abney retrospective will open at the Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, Fla.

The hype aside, "Royal Flush" is a winner. Abney mints disconcertingly trenchant art out of the retinal flash of Stuart Davis, Paul Rand, surrealism, and animation.
Nina Chanel Abney, Forbidden Fruit, 2009

Robert Pruitt, A Brother I Have Had on Earth, 2017
No less engaging is "Robert Pruitt: Devotion," the city's first major show of the Houston-born New York artist. It's timely because of Pruitt's affinity to Charles White, now being celebrated in a big-museum show that comes to LACMA next year. (Maybe the ideal is for an artist to get a first museum retrospective later than Nina Chanel Abney but sooner than Charles White.) 

Pruitt's A Brother I Have Had on Earth (2017) is directly inspired by Charles White's 1965 drawing Two Brothers I Have Had on Earth—One of Spirit, One of Sod. Like White, Pruitt favors large finished drawings, in this case in conté crayon, pastel, charcoal, and coffee on paper.
Robert Pruitt, Archangel, 2017
A number of works strike an Afrofuturist note. Archangel (2015) depicts a drone, bristling with cameras and carrying flowers, money, Kool cigarettes, and a t-shirt saying  I CAN'T BREATHE—the last words of Eric Garner (2014) and Jamal Khashoggi (2018).
Robert Pruitt, Thinking Cap, 2008
Pruitt also does elegantly conceptual objects such as a pair bringing magical light to ordinary caps.
Robert Pruitt, Dome, 2008
The Pruitt show is installed with works by artists who inspired him. These include White, John Biggers, and John Outerbridge. Also on view are sculptures by Herbert Singleton and Sulton Rogers, both recent gifts of longtime CAAM supporter Gordon W. Bailey.
Herbert Singleton, Old Religion, 2003
Still another reason to plan a visit to Exposition Park: Gary Simmons's acclaimed lobby installation Fade to Black remains on view. Originally set to close this past summer, it's been extended through Dec. 31, 2019.


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