Best Artist Collective Houston 2005 - Otabenga Jones & Associates
Named after a pygmy who was brought to the United States in the early 1900s and placed in a zoo, Otabenga Jones & Associates consists of Jabari Anderson, Jamal Cyrus, Kenya Evans, Robert Pruitt and, of course, the spirit of the eponymous martyr, who eventually committed suicide after being released from captivity. His associates offer us heavy reminders of the oppression he underwent, creating works that are both socially provocative and visually interesting. For We Did It for Love at the Contemporary Arts Museum's "Amalgama" show, the guys flipped a cop car in the middle of the space, leaving the viewer with crushed metal, broken glass and a question: How the hell did they get that car in here? This inquiry is key, since it brings to mind the rage required to flip an official vehicle. But we especially dug the collective's protest, We are blacker than your white box, staged at the opening of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston's "African Art Now" exhibition. Pruitt and Cyrus held up signs, urging the museum to consider why it had let the taste of one Swiss man, Jean Pigozzi, dictate the canon of contemporary African art. Hmm, good question.