Cultured Magazine

April/May 2015

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In May, beloved New York-based artist Rob Pruitt will open major exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit and the Brant Foundation Art Study Center in Greenwich, Connecticut. At the former, The Obama Paintings features over 2,000 paintings of President Barack Obama unfailingly completing daily tasks since his January 2009 inauguration, as well as a sculpture of copper-painted truck tires filled with over 200,000 Lincoln pennies. The exhibit at the Brant Foundation is unconventional as well with Pruitt using the Brant family as inspiration in the survey's design—alongside a recognizable series such as his panda paintings, Pruitt will hold a garage sale of the Brant family's sundry items, for instance. Here, Pruitt shares some details about the two shows, his eBay auctions and what he considers his own favorite exhibition. It seems that between The Obama Paintings, your eBay flea market and your "Art World/Celebrity Look-Alikes" series on Instagram, you have a daily to-do list. Is ritual important to you? It feels good to have ongoing projects that I am committed to maintaining. It makes art-making more like gardening or working out at the gym—the 'slow burn' approach. Also, the uncertainty regarding how something will develop over a long period of time is very exciting since when I set forth to make a painting, it generally takes me no longer than a week. Detroit is an interesting place because it is where American industrialism begins and ends. Does Detroit represent, for you, a particularly important place for discussion about the American presidency in any way? Detroit is the American city at this moment in time. It was the symbolic pillar of American industry, it collapsed and now it's finding a new way for itself. Those changes have caused a lot of suffering and grief for the city and its people, but I think Detroit is also regarded for its resolve, and I believe there can be beauty in a second act. Beyond that, I think it's crucial that Detroit stays in the greater American consciousness and that its stories continue to be told. It's not just some place 'over there' that 'once was.' Can you talk about the process of making The Obama Paintings? After a morning review of Google image search results, the most interesting from the previous day's news cycle is selected and turned into a transparency for projecting. There are a lot of liberties taken at this stage with the composition—cropping, simplification—and it takes around 15 to 30 minutes to paint it. Do you think that Obama will visit the show? Does it mean anything to you to know that Obama will likely, at the very least, know who you are? I haven't thought about that. Throughout my art-making career, there are really just a handful of people that I think about seeing the things that I make and it's usually just some very old friends or comrades in art. 158 CULTURED The weird and wonderful Rob Pruitt opens two major exhibitions in Detroit and Connecticut. BY MAXWELL WILLIAMS HAIL TO THE CHIEF IMAGES COURTESY OF GAVIN BROWN'S ENTERPRISE © ROB PRUITT

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