Artist Rob Pruitt creates pieces that somehow manage to be at once whimsical, joyous, poignant, and socially aware. With recurring themes like thoughtful humor and pandas, his work is rooted in awareness of and commentary upon the state of the world that we live in. When faced with the chance to put his own spin on a Madison Avenue holiday window for Barneys’ Love Peace Joy Project, Pruitt considered the prospect carefully.
“There’s a rich tradition of creative people putting their ideas in store windows, people like Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, and Andy Warhol,” Pruitt says of his decision to take part in the project. “I think what compelled them to do that is the same thing that compels me: broadening your audience and speaking to as many people as you possibly can is thrilling, and it’s what art should be about. I love making paintings that are shown where you expect to find them—in galleries and museums—but I also like the idea that art can end up in places that you don’t expect to see it, like as you’re walking down the sidewalks of New York City.”
Drawing from his rich and varied oeuvre, Pruitt pulled together elements from his previous work, but combined them in ways he hadn’t before imagined to create a singe cohesive window display of his interpretation of “love” from the Love Peace Joy theme. He describes the window as a warm and typical domestic depiction of a couple in love in their bedroom, watching television at night before going to sleep. Their safe moment is interrupted, though, by an unexpected tidal wave. “But the message of the window is that their love of one another will keep them safe,” he says.
We asked Pruitt about the way the work from his decades as an artist was reimagined for this project. “The two characters themselves are based on some sculptures called Cardboard Monsters that I have made on-and-off for the past eight years,” he says. “They’re made out of cardboard bales, and accidental narratives are created when you can read little glimpses of what the boxes once contained. It reminds me of us—of all of the things that we consume.”
For anyone familiar with Pruitt’s work, the bedspread covering the characters will call to mind one of his most iconic subjects. “Perhaps the thing that I’m most known for is rendering all things related to pandas,” he says of the print that he created for the fabric of the duvet. “I like how pandas are nature’s version of the yin yang, being equal parts black and white. It’s the perfect symbol of balance, and I think a great reminder to all of us that if we don’t tread lightly here on this earth, we can lose incredibly beautiful things like the panda bear.”
A more recent addition to Rob’s work has been a series of canvases showing gradient colors. “I was thinking about my own version of minimalism, and with these color gradients, I could speak about time—both time of day and time of year—and I could speak about place, like the desert, a deep shady forest, the sky, or the sea.” This theme makes it appearance in the window with the back wall of the bedroom, which is a whole wall of constantly shifting colored light. “A bedroom is a set location, but in the surreal bedroom that I made for the Cardboard Monsters, the time and the space keep shifting thanks to the gradient light.”
While Barneys and Pruitt have worked together in the past, this was the first time that the artist’s work has been so prominently displayed one of our window displays and was a collaborative experience that Pruitt relished. Of working with the team and Barneys creative Director Dennis Freedman, Rob says, “Dennis gets so excited when we’re sitting around talking about the ideas, the possibilities, and the direction. It really gives me the freedom not to limit my ideas and what could be possible. And the team that puts it all together is just remarkable. Some people say that craftsmanship is on the wane, but these guys prove that opposite is in fact true.”
Love Peace Joy Project is on display now through January 3, 2017 at both our our Madison Avenue and Chelsea flagship locations.
Plus, we’re inviting you to take part in our Love Peace Joy Project via our social campaign #LovePeaceJoyProject in support of Amy Schumer and Leesa Evans’ STYLEFUND and the Russell Westbrook Why Not? Foundation. Find all the details here.