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

09/16/2010 05:23 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011


All 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.

Well, it's all there. 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 Pop and art historical references: check.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.

Some candy, a hundred or so T-shirts, 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 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 do look really nice.

Yet, 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 stuff, 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?


Gavin Brown's Enterprise
Rob Pruitt - Pattern and Degradation
09/11/2010 - 10/23/2010




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.