Rob Pruitt, born in Washington D.C. in 1964, works with a deep-rooted attachment to pop sensibility as well as a playful critique for art world structures. His conceptual projects have included performance-based artworks like his recent Art Awards, presented at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in 2009 and modeled after Hollywood awards ceremonies, as well as simple gestures that promote possibilities for creativity in everyday life, as demonstrated in the 2001 series 101 Art Ideas You Can Do Yourself. From his glittering paintings of panda bears and sculptural formations of blue jeans to his operative flea markets, Pruitt’s work is always characterized by an incisive humor and exuberant visual flair. In 2008, he was one of the first artists to show a collection of iPhone photos in his exhibit iPruitt at Gavin Brown’s enterprise. Pruitt graduated Tougaloo Art Colony in 1999, earned his BFA from Texas Southern University in 2000, attended Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture, and received his MFA from the University of Texas at Austin in 2003. Pruitt currently lives and works in New York.
Pruitt has been exhibited both nationally and internationally, including his shows Flea Market at Gavin Brown’s enterprise in New York, Paris in Tokyo at Gallery Side 2 in Tokyo, 101 Art Ideas You Can Do Yourself at Contemporary Art Center in Cincinnati, and Look What I’ve Done: Rob Pruitt Works 1989 – 2009 at Carlson Gallery in London. He has also participated in a variety of group exhibitions, again both nationally and internationally though with a prevalence in New York, including Fortyck at Galleri Metropol in Stockholm, Paintball at 303 Gallery in New York, Summer Group Show at China Art Objects Gallery in Los Angeles, and Grisaille at Luxembourg & Dayan in New York.
How and why did you conceive iPruitt?
Well, the iPhone had just come out and had a very enticing multi-million dollar ad campaign. Previously, I just had a cheap Motorola Razor phone. I have to admit, I was very seduced by the litany of things that the iPhone could do beside just make calls. The camera feature was most exciting to me, because I felt as if I could use it as a journal.
Where are the photos now, and are any for sale?
Some of the photos were sold but a lot of them are in storage.
How did you like working with the iPhone?
The iPhone is incredibly easy to use. For me, anything that makes taking images as simple as possible is welcomed.
Would you consider using it again for another art project? Have you thought of other possibilities for its use?
For sure. I have made iVideos all along but haven't shown them.
How was iPruitt received (the iPhone photos)?
As far as I can tell, people loved iPruitt. However, I don't really ever search the internet to see because some of the mean things that people can say get me pretty depressed.
What is one word that describes your work?
Well, I can't really think of one word. Simply put, I would say that my work is in dialogue with daily culture, or the culture of the day.
What is one word that describes you?
My boyfriend Jonathan says that I'm a snoop.
What's your favorite word?
I don't really have a favorite word, but I do have a word that I hate: cutlet.
Do you see yourself ever collaborating again, making that sacrifice?
I love collaborating. The last thing I collaborated on was a project with Nate Lowman about New York City's bed-bug infestation. We made paintings and sculptures.
You’re so prolific, how do you do it?
I try to have a routine, it's important to me to be in the studio as if it were a nine-to-five job.
What does being an artist mean to you?
Earning the privilege of having people look at what I've done.
What is the most satisfying moment thus far in your career?
I suppose it’s that I have the support of a large amount of dealers, collectors, and curators, which allows me to proceed.
What advice do you have for emerging artists?
Do exactly what you want to do and do whatever it takes to get it seen.
What's your favorite color and what response does it provoke from you?
I like pink.
Is there any habit you'd like to break?
Well, I suffer from depression which is not exactly a habit. And I know that exercise makes me feel less depressed, but it's awfully hard for me to commit to an exercise regime.
Is there anything you'd like to change about your life?
I'd like to get plastic surgery.
Is there any project you'd like to re-visit and do over or add to?
I always re-visit my old projects. Like a musician playing old songs, it's been a pattern of mine.
Is there a prevalent theme in your work and what is it?
The predominant theme I'd say is that art is something that we all can do. Very often I think that what I present may not even be the best example, but serves as a suggestion to the viewer that their personal expressions can be meaningful and exciting too.
Were there moments when you doubted yourself and your work? If so, how did you move forward?
I don't ever doubt myself when I'm making things. After they are made, I sometimes have a feeling which must be similar to what a serial killer feels. I'll look at it and think: "My god, what have I done? Should I hide it or just let it be discovered?"
What haven't you done yet that you would like to do?
I'd like to make some art that didn't require any extraneous support such as the internet or projected image – just my brain, eyes, hand, a paintbrush or pencil, or a lump of clay. Or maybe record a pop song, a love song.