Provenance Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, New York Private Collection, London
Exhibited London, Delfina Studio, New York Projects, July-August 2006
"I think that all art is kind of funny because it’s a little bit absurd." Rob Pruitt
"I’ve really enjoyed letting the world know that not everything is so mystified or so regulated to expertise – that you can make something really beautiful with a little ingenuity and some supplies from Michaels [crafts shop]." (Rob Pruitt, in an interview with James Franco, Interview Magazine, 26 October 2009)
The panda relaxes on its back, happily munching a bamboo shoot. The creature shimmers on the canvas, content to be alone in a paradise overflowing with beauty. Rob Pruitt’s interest in pandas has developed and broadened extensively during his career, making his bear paintings his most recognisable works. The New York-based artist continually challenges established preconceptions of what an artwork should be. The title of this piece, Power of the Panda (Happy Alone), satirises the supremacy of this cuddly animal as an iconoclastic symbol within Pruitt’s œuvre.
Rooted in Andy Warhol’s artistic strategies, Pruitt’s practice takes up various ideas from Pop art while adapting and transforming them. Recalling Warhol’s love of superficiality, Pruitt’s dreamland is a glittery stage with no apparent content. The cliché breaks down when we think about the fate of the objects he portrays: we realise that behind the carefully staged surface lies a polluted environment that has driven the panda population to near extinction. In this balance of cliché and reality lies the true quality of Pruitt’s work.