Magazine article Artforum International

Rob Pruitt

Magazine article Artforum International

Rob Pruitt

Article excerpt

GAVIN BROWN'S ENTERPRISE

On the heels of an edition of prints for the New Museum, an interview in Time Out New York, a page in the new magazine Gotham, and a glossy spread in a recent oversized issue of Visionaire, this glittery show, "Pandas and Bamboo," completes Rob Pruitt's comeback. To recap the well-known story: Back in 1992, Pruitt and his then-collaborator Jack Early earned accusations of racism with their exhibition at Leo Castelli, "Red Black Green Red White and Blue Project," which included paintings and posters of well-known African Americans. The fallout was ugly, and effected Pruitt's prompt dismissal from the art world. Then in 1998 he came out with Cocaine Buffet, a lengthy offering at a group show at an artist's studio in New York's meatpacking district. The piece was an experiment: How long would it take people to get down on their knees and start snorting? Not long: The opening-night crowd collectively partook and the coke was quickly consumed. Cocaine Buffet was not only a generous gesture (the artist paid for the coke himself) but proved to be a brilliant promotional strategy and one that endeared him to a particular segment of the art world. His similarly user-friendly (but less illegal) show "101 Art Ideas You Can Do Yourself" at Gavin Brown's in 1999 signaled Pruitt's reinstatement on the mainstream gallery circuit.

Pruitt's story is worth retelling here because of how thematically interwoven it is with this latest show. Not surprisingly, the artist feels a real kinship with the panda: Like the endangered species, he has faced extinction. And what's not to love? Protected, revered, the symbol of the World Wildlife Federation, the animal is an infallible alter ego. The panda has become Pruitt's own brand-name icon, like Ralph Lauren's polo pony. For this show, a total environment for the artist/bear was created. …

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