Gavin Brown’s enterprise is pleased to present Pattern and Degradation, a major exhibition of new works by Rob Pruitt. Opening on Saturday, September 11th, Pattern and Degradation will occupy the entirety of GBE’s newly expanded galleries, as well as the neighboring gallery Maccarone, Inc. Encompassing 8,200 square feet and stretching an entire city block, the expanded GBE will mount a succession of ambitious exhibitions and host concurrent shows across three exhibition spaces.
Rob Pruitt’s exhibition Pattern and Degradation takes inspiration from the Amish tradition of Rumspringa, a Pennsylvania German term that directly translates to “running around.” During the Rumspringa, Amish adolescents are given the chance to temporarily explore the outside world before choosing to either return to the Amish lifestyle and be baptized, or leave their community forever. Folklore holds that this is a period when Amish youth engage in rebellious behavior, defying their culture’s strict prohibitions, and indulging in the excesses of mainstream American culture.
In Pruitt’s interpretation he is forever living a “Permanent Rumspringa” and filling an entire city block with the exploits. For Pruitt, this is the position of the artist: an unbridled human, indifferent to convention and with every avenue open to him – each possibility equal to all others. In Pattern and Degradation, Pruitt will debut several new bodies of greatly varied work continuing his exploration of American pop-culture, trying everything before it is too late. A series of paintings based on Amish quilts are made with spray paint and read like an amped-up version of classic Americana. Composite self-portrait paintings piece together various conflicting personae: masculine, feminine, artist, priest – creating a schizophrenic identity pastiche. Identity also becomes logo in a series of silk-screened paintings of t-shirts – Tom of Finland, Debbie Harry’s lipstick kiss, smears of paint from an artist’s studio, etc.
Pruitt translates this season’s Ikea wall art into lush, semi-abstract oil paintings, and with Pollock-like squirts of paint Pruitt “ices” photo transfers of Cinnabuns. For a new sculpture project he recycles bundled stacks of flattened cardboard into anthropomorphic monsters with enormous googly eyed stares, and the artist’s iconic panda returns in large-scale pattern paintings like enormous swatches of custom designed fabric.
Rob Pruitt is the artist for our time, creating and living at a moment when the American experience is both preeminent and stagnant. Rather than feel defeated by the diminished cultural legacy left to us, Pruitt has embraced it. He loves the cynicism, bathes in the stupid, lies down with the empty, turns the other cheek, and asks for an autograph. He has no answers, so he offers a joyful moment of flat, ridiculous glitter. His love of life and seeming flippancy are forms of modern wisdom – a radical, smiling response to an intolerable situation and a giddy challenge to those who have given in.
Rob Pruitt was born in 1964 in Washington, D.C., and has been exhibiting work internationally for the past 25 years. In 2009, in association with White Columns, Rob Pruitt conceived and presented his performance-based artwork “The First Annual Art Awards” at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. The second annual art awards will take place at Webster Hall in December 2010. Pruitt has been included in numerous exhibitions internationally including: “Pop Life,” Tate Modern (2010); “Mapping the Studio,” Palazzo Grassi (2009); “The Gold Standard,” PS1 Contemporary Art Center, New York (2006); “Seeing Double,” Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, PA (2005); “Following and to Be Followed” Consortium, Dijon, France (2003); Shanghai Biennale 2002, Shanghai Art Museum, Shanghai, China (2002); “Vantage Point,” Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, Ireland (2001); “Protest and Survive!, Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, UK (2000); as well as the seminal exhibition, ‘Post Human’, curated by Jeffrey Deitch, Castello di Rivoli, Museo d’ Arte, Contemporanea, Rivoli, Italy (1992).