Before looking at the title of “Multiple Personalities,” I was confused upon entering Rob Pruitt’s show at Gavin Brown: I was inside three different worlds. The first room of the show comprises of wooden furniture, covered by colorful teenage-looking doodles, openly done by Pruitt’s assistants. The second room of the gallery is filled with sand, and the viewer is faced with iMac screen saver gradient turned into James Whistler-inspired seascape. And the third room, childlike automatic doodles, made during the artist's therapy sessions, reminiscent of the surrealist’s Freud inspired work with the unconscious, here, re-created, in large scale, for the purpose of the exhibition, just like Franz Kline would project and trace the marks he would make on a rag to clean his paintbrushes, onto large scale canvases.
When I go to an exhibition, I expect to get a glimpse of who the artist is. But in this case, Rob Pruitt presents three different versions of himself, three different ideas, and three different formal executions and I am very confused. I find it difficult to write about the show as a whole. The notion of the “hand of the artist” is often irrelevant in the world of today, but we still expect artists to have a “style.” The viewer wants to be able to recognize, to be comforted in knowing that this is a Jeff Koons, based on other Jeff Koons she has seen, and ultimately based on the brand identity Jeff Koons has created. At a student of art history, I learn to recognize works based on their formal or ideological qualities. I am tested on being able to name werther the mid-1700s japanese Ukiyo-e wood block print I am looking at is by Hishikawa Moronobu or by Okumura Toshinobu. But in “Multiple Personalities,” Rob Pruitt presents three completely different thought through and worked on brands with no apparent connecting thread.
With these three different styles, the artist is honest with his viewer about the absence of his own hand, and sheds light to the assistant-produced, technology-produced art making process. Pruitt succeeds in pointing to the age old notion of an artist’s personal style, but evolved into today’s context with utmost importance placed on the artist “brand”. Although the variables of Pruitt’s experimentation are eclectic, he presents us with the reality that an artist, like any other human being, is a complex entity with “Multiple Personalities”, who might be limiting him or herself pretending that he or she only has one.