REVIEW: Rob Pruitt: Pattern and Degradation- Gavin Brown’s Enterprise & Maccarone Gallery 9/11-10/23

Images courtesy the artist and Gavin Brown's enterprise, New York Photography: Thomas Mueller and Adam Reich
Images courtesy the artist and Gavin Brown's enterprise, New York Photography: Thomas Mueller and Adam Reich

Nowadays, you’re supposed to like Rob Pruitt very much. After all, he made up long ago for being a bit too ironic for his time and then, having learned to stay on the WHITE side of the fence, he gave the art world Cocaine Buffet, which, though politically correct, was pretty brave, kind of witty, and awfully cool.

After that, he gave us lots and lots of pandas and pop culture echoes. Likeable stuff and really, not anything the critics wanted to question.

Because it’s all playfulness with Pruitt and defiance and maybe a touch, just here and there, of not very complicated wit. Easy as sugar. You could, if you wanted, go on liking it. Sure it has no edge, and yes, it’s not brave anymore but, well: it is darned precious.

So the pressure was on for me to smile fondly at Pattern and Degradation.

Pandas: check. Pandas everywhere: check. More pandas: check. Pop and art historical references: check.

The relentless repetition of an infant playing peek-a-boo: check.

Images courtesy the artist and Gavin Brown's enterprise, New York Photography: Thomas Mueller and Adam Reich
Images courtesy the artist and Gavin Brown's enterprise, New York Photography: Thomas Mueller and Adam Reich

Some candy, a boner, and a lot of painted tires later, I think:

Okay, so it’s called “Pattern and Degradation” for a reason, get it? It’s not SUPPOSED to be new or instructive. It’s supposed to be about Amish teenagers wilding in the outside world of decadence, so, it NEEDS to be unhinged and it has an excuse to be repetitive…

Which would be fine if anything at all, ANYthing, in this entire – what does the press release say?— entire city block: yes —entire city block of art proves to be surprising or amusing in the least.

But nah: the pandas surfing on Katsushika Hokusai’s great wave are almost funny. And the glitter covered almost abstract pandas are cute/pretty in a way that’s so popular right now that they can’t help but sell (oh my god how CRASS!). And the relentless, unedited, parades of mad-lib self-portraits are rendered in very pleasing pop art colors: they look really nice. (A schizophrenic room of dun-colored oils in thick, chewy layers that gash and droop with the weight of the paint provides a sort of melancholic relief.)

Sighing past armies of “cardboard monsters” with annoying, pointlessly mechanized googly eyes, and what must be two yards of insipid T-shirts with hammer-over-the-head obvious references, one is reminded of children in art classes who all have the same assignment: if any one of these stands out, or shows a modicum of identifiable wit, I’ll plotz.

I don’t lose my shit, though: I leave and go home and read the press release to see why I should have enjoyed the show. No doubt, it will explain why I’m supposed to have found all this giggly stuff fresh and amusing. Relevance is wayyy past our ken at this point, so, I take it amusement is all that’s left?

Images courtesy the artist and Gavin Brown's enterprise, New York Photography: Thomas Mueller and Adam Reich
I almost forgot the pandas! Images courtesy the artist and Gavin Brown's enterprise, New York Photography: Thomas Mueller and Adam Reich

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RELATED LINKS:

Gavin Brown’s Enterprise
Rob Pruitt – Pattern and Degradation
09/11/2010 – 10/23/2010

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WIKIPEDIA: Rob Pruitt

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TATE MODERN: Pop Life: 1 October 2009 – 17 January 2010
Room 13 Pruitt Early, Red, Black, Green, Red, White and Blue
Rising stars in the New York art world of the early 1990s, Rob Pruitt and Jack Early forged a joint public persona as insouciant bad boys who actively courted controversy and reveled in questionable taste.

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11 Comments

  1. catweaver says:

    This is getting interesting.

    1. aj dimarucot says:

      I noticed you linked it already. That’s actually the original t-shirt design that I did with another artist. That’s where Rob Pruitt lifted the image with no permission.

      1. catweaver says:

        Hello, AJ:

        Let’s follow up: contact me at catweaver@me.com and answer a few questions. I can pursue a story, contact Rob Pruitt and talk to some other people who might have some interesting input.

        BTW: anyone following this thread. AJ’s work can be seen at:
        http://www.ajdimarucot.com/

  2. Roy Nottage says:

    Has Rob Pruitt admitted plagiarism / stealing artwork yet?

    1. catweaver says:

      Roy, I think that every artist who uses reference and relies heavily upon “quotation” and appropriation of other works is called upon throughout their career to justify what looks to some to be derivative at best and outright parasitic at worst. But “plagiarism,” especially when we are speaking of appropriation art, is nearly impossible to apply, let alone to prove. Maybe he’s a succubus, or he’s lazy, or he’s not witty enough to justify his heavy references: but a plagiarist he is not.

      Personally, I suspect he may be in need of the next big idea and this show was merely a tantrum.

      1. aj dimarucot says:

        As one of the artists who did the original design that Rob ‘appropriated’, I’m a little pissed. He could’ve at least asked for permission to use our image.

      2. catweaver says:

        Okay: this is the second comment about this subject, so I’m asking you, or anyone who has an issue regarding USAGE to contact me directly and discuss it. I’ve published your comments, but I’d hate for this article to provide a forum for slander. ON the other hand, I don’t want to circumscribe the communications of anyone who has anything valid to say.
        e-mail: catweaver@me.com directly with any further accusations or complaints.

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