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Negra es Bella

Negra es Bella

Robert Pruitt
Negra es Bella, 2014
Two-color lithograph
37 1/2 x 26 inches

Ruane Center for the Humanities, Second Floor

About the Work

“My first love was comic books,” says Robert Pruitt. “[They] gave me a glimpse of drawing and writing and color…” Comic books also influence Pruitt’s large-scale portraits of real and imagined female archetypes from Black communities. To create his portraits, he often projects a juxtaposed series of experiences and material references onto his images, denoting a diverse and radical Black past, present and future. Pruitt often utilizes religion, spirituality, signs and symbolic objects throughout his work as a means of exploring Black diasporic conceptions of transcendence and mythology.

Negra es Bella depicts a Black woman standing in a comic-book power pose. Donning a sphinx headdress and a sports uniform with the Black Panther Party logo and the words “Negra Es Bella” (Spanish for Black Is Beautiful, a 1960s cultural movement), the woman embodies an idea of female empowerment. The blood-red background, for Pruitt, symbolizes life and vitality, and alludes to the matriarchal power he seeks to infuse into his super, extra-human characters. The resulting portrait celebrates the multifaceted heritage and capacity of Black women across time and space.