Early was born in 1962 in Raleigh, North Carolina. His ascent to fame began in the late 1980s as one-half of the duo Pruitt-Early. Pruitt-Early’s irreverent work challenged prevailing orthodoxies and blurred the boundaries between low culture and high art.
Their first solo show, Artwork for Teenage Boys, was held in 1990 at 303 Gallery, New York. Pruitt-Early quickly garnered attention, and in 1992 they presented an exhibition at Leo Castelli Gallery. Following the Castelli show, which was misunderstood and infamously panned, Early went into a self-imposed exile from the art world. In recent years, Pruitt-Early’s artworks have been reappraised and increasingly hailed by collectors, critics, and museums.
Early began writing songs, which have become integral to many of his new art objects. Since 2009, he has been making objects that explore the breadth of American pop culture. Glenn O’Brien describes Early as a “new sort of bluesman . . . making work that reflects the lonesome road he’s been on, a road that goes through Jesus, Jesus Christ Superstar, John and Yoko, protest movements, and the United Federation of Planets.”
Jack Early graduated from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. Recent exhibitions have included Pop Life: Art in a Material World, Tate Modern, London, 2009–10; Mapping the Studio: Artists from the François Pinault Collection, Palazzo Grassi, Venice, 2009–11; Jack Early: WWJD, Southfirst, Brooklyn, 2012; Jack Early: Gallery Peace, McCaffrey Fine Art, New York, 2012; Jack Early, Fergus McCaffrey, New York, 2016; and A Better Yesterday, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, 2017. Opening in February of next year, Brand New: Art and Commodity in the 1980s at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, DC, will include several Pruitt-Early artworks. Jack Early lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.