A Racist Show by Pruitt and Early Visits the Tate Modern

A Racist Show by Pruitt and Early Visits the Tate Modern
The Tate Modern has announced that it will restage a controversial show called “Red, Black, Green, Red, White and Blue” by artists Rob Pruitt and Jack Early that many critics deemed racist when it debuted in 1992.

The exhibition, first shown at Leo Castelli Gallery in New York, included a series of collages that featured posters of prominent African-American pop cultural celebrities. Pruitt and Early grouped some celebrities by name — putting Jesse, Janet, and “Action” Jackson (a fictional character played by Carl Weathers in a movie of the same name) together on one poster. “It was about having your identity taken from you [and having a], slave name tagged in,” Pruitt told the Independent, explaining that the two artists meant the works as a critique of media's depictions of African-Americans. The show also featured a rap song that the two produced.

Critics lambasted the exhibition, questioning Pruitt and Early’s portrayal of African-American culture, and the two artists’ careers suffered. Early left the profession and now works as a caterer. Pruitt did not have another solo exhibition in the United States for seven years, but made news last week when he announced plans to launch an annual art awards show in conjunction with the Guggenheim Museum in New York.

The show is being restaged as part of Tate Modern’s “Pop Life” exhibition, which opens on Thursday.