Visual artist Robert A. Pruitt is the juror for "Perspectives 174: Re: Generation," the latest Contemporary Arts Museum Houston exhibit featuring works by teen artists. This isn't the first time Pruitt has been associated with CAMH. He used to be a security guard there while he was in college. "It was one of my first jobs," he tells us. "I remember I was working there during what may have been the first teen exhibition. I was amazed at the art these kids were producing. It's really exciting come full circle, so to speak, from guarding the art at the CAMH, to judging it."
Before he saw the work submitted, Pruitt wondered what impact the Internet would have on the student artists; how would living in an global environment where instant communication is the norm be reflected in the art?
One piece that clearly reflects that influence is Inside Loretta's Head by Loretta White, a sculptural work that shows the face and neck of a young woman, with the neck entangled in wires and cords and half of her face made up of gears and other bits of machinery. "I think ... in this piece, [there's] the idea of technology encroaching onto her psyche. Maybe that first step has already been taken since we're all so attached to our PDA's or whatever.
"We all have cell phones and other things that we are really, really connected to and those things, like cell phones, connect us to the outside world to such an extent that maybe they start to seep into us," he says. Instant communication, according to Pruitt, has made conversation meaningless. The more you text and tweet, the less you are really saying, he contends.
A whole range of media was submitted, but photographs seemed to be a favorite format for the young artists. "Camera phones and digital photos have kinda changed the way that we look at photos," he says. "We have the opportunity to photograph every millisecond of our lives, and that creates a kind of comfort and I felt like I could see that in the photos they chose to present."
One especially eye-catching photograph is Princess by Alyssa Hansen. It shows a girl revealing a crown that's been tattooed inside her lower lip. "This is one of those pieces that shows the students' comfort with the camera," says Pruitt.
"This is an extreme close-up; I'd be frightened if somebody wanted to take a close-up like that of my face," he laughs. "But she seems fine. There were lots of images where these kids were dealing with their bodies in certain ways, this one in particular with that tattoo. You're just like, 'Really?' It's an appealing, quirky image."
"Perspectives 174: Re: Generation" runs through June 26 at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, 5216 Montrose. There's an opening reception 6:30 to 9 p.m. April 7. Regular viewing hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesdays and Fridays, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursdays, and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. For information, visit www.camh.org or call 713-284-8250. Admission is free.