Faces: People and Pandas
On September 19, 2012 Faces: People and Pandas opens at Massimo De Carlo gallery, Rob Pruitt’s first
solo show in Milan.
Extravagant flea markets, a 40 foot line of cocaine, glittering panda paintings, totemic stacked tire
sculptures recycled into candy dishes, and frozen blue jean and cement sculptures have made Pruitt
one of the New York art scene’s most notorius artists, starting back in the late 90s.
Pruitt’s language is simple, direct, minimalist, and above all, welcoming. The artist re-interprets
materials, objects, and everyday tools with a keen sense of humour and sardonic irony.
The American artist realizes for this show new face paintings – quickly drawn faces on large canvases
painted with spectural gradients. Side by side in the first room of the gallery, they receive the visitor
showing cheekily deep colors and every kind of expression. Despite its abstraction and essentiality, each
painting portrays an identity, maybe a familiar face or a childhood memory.
I love minimalism, and I also love melodrama. So with my face paintings, I combined the two. First I make a
shifting color, gradient backdrop - color is one of the best ways to express emotion - and then I draw a face.
Sometimes the lines of the face are steady and bold, sometimes they skip and falter. I just go with my emotions,
which are always changing. What results, whether the simple lines of a smiling face over a pastel blush, or a
sorrowful cry dashed over a range of fiery reds, really paints a story, not just a picture.
A new series of sculptures accompany Pruitt’s paintings in the first room. Paper shopping bags,
collected by the artist in the United States, are presented inverted, bottom side up to reveal the usual
custom of stamping the factory workers’s name on the bottom of the bag. Perhaps has as an expression
of pride of workmanship or perhaps as an identity tag to trace responsability for an acident caused by a
poorly made bag. Emptied of their utilitarian function and slipped on to blocks of marble cut to the
same size of the bag, become a metaphoric tombstone of their past contents.
The famous glittering pandas end the exhibition. Pruitt represents this lone and delicate animal who
needs our protection, like a mosaic or a scrapbook, in which every tile is a previous work from his panda
series, as if it is a glittering celebration of a grand finale.
Rob Pruitt was born in Washington D.C. in 1964 and studied at the Corcoran College of Art and Design in Washington D.C. and Parsons School of Design in New York. He lives and works in New York.
Since the early 1990s, Rob Pruitt’s risk-taking investigations into American popular culture have taken many forms. From his notorious Cocaine Buffet (1998) and glitter portraits of Pandas or the significant Suicide Paintings series, Pruitt’s works are a surreal and extravagant interpretation of the pop world, a kaleidoscopic look towards mass culture by exploring the multiples aspects and the paradoxes of our present time.
Throughout his career, Rob Pruitt has fine-tuned his ability to express nuanced ideas about culture and society through the re-interpretation of common objects and materials, all filtered through a sense of humour and irony. With his Mask series, the artist continues his pursuit of depicting the complexities of personality and emotions. The facial gestures indeed are cut into the canvas with a razor - destructive and creative at the same time, these gestures are married to an accumulation of gradients, patterns, and prints to create a character