Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Multiple Personalities: Rob Pruitt at Gavin Brown's Enterprise

by Drew Martin
Four years ago this month I wrote about Rob Pruitt's Pattern and Degradation show at Gavin Brown's Enterprise. Today I visited his Multiple Personalities show in the same gallery, which is wrapping up in a few days.

Let me start in the back room of the three-room gallery, which is occupied by 12 dark, paint-globby cats, six of which are admiring Pruitt's scratchy automatic paintings, which look like art that cats would appreciate, or at least be able to create. There is a total of nine canvases. Nine paintings...nine lives?

Four of the cats are definitely not interested in his work but rather are looking out through a large, street-level gallery window at the real dogs, walking by, and pissing on the black plastic trash bags piled up on the sidewalk. There is another cat frozen-walking between the paintings, and the last cat is still-crawling out of the room.

In the middle room are eight, large "suicide" paintings with surfaces that fade from light to dark colors, with wide borders that fade in the opposite direction. Two little dunes of sand flank a broad pedestrian path that runs between the front and back rooms. Are they suicide paintings because they kind of reference Rothko, who slit his own wrists? Or is it because they create a mind-numbing loop if you follow the gradations back and forth?

I read the room differently. I thought Pruitt was trying to create a void, unlike but parallel to the typical nothingness of a white gallery. The fades in the painting are like the simple atmospheric perspective you see at the beach where the teal ocean deepens/darkens as it nears the horizon, and the blue sky washes out as it sinks into the water.

This effect, in conjunction with the sand, creates a mindless, beach-like environment in which you do not expect much more from what Pruitt typically serves up: not-deep art that focuses on quick images. If this is the intent, that is pretty smart - separating the viewer from a busy city that raises everyone's expectations as well as critical review.

The front room is the most intense. It is filled with 12 4'x8' sheets of plywood/upturned table tops, and seven uncozy "love seats," five of which are bland Ikea-like pieces of furniture, and the remaining two are plywood renditions of the same style. The love is actually the sex of the constant pornographic doodles that cover these little sofas as well as the plywood boards.

If you calculate all this surface space, it works out to more than 600 square feet of doodle space. Even the most graphic images fade into the colorful, playful theme, which is actually really engaging.

One of my favorite details, which I only noticed on my way out, is the cute tubesock design painted on the legs of one couch, which matches the socks of an otherwise naked women occupied by multiple sexual acts.