Rob Pruitt recently unveiled his solo exhibition, “Pattern and Degradation” in New York City’s West Village. Problem is, he prominently features work in his gallery that was previously designed by two well known T-Shirt artists. AJ Dimarucot and Jimmy Benedict (aka jimiyo) submitted When Pandas Attacks as a joint project to Threadless over two years ago. Since then, it has been reprinted multiple times and was even selected as a Threadless Bestees nominee in 2008.
So it was quite a surprise when AJ found out that Pruitt was featuring When Pandas Attack in his own exhibit without first getting permission from himself or Benedict.
A member of Emptees, the popular T-Shirt forum for designers, even sent an email to the New York Times author (Randy Kennedy) that wrote the article about Pruitt’s exhibition and subsequently showed off Pruitt in a photo that prominently displayed When Panda’s Attack.
Dear Mr. Gangnath:
I know the painting youâ€™re referring to. And yes, Pruitt did tell me it was an appropriation of a T-shirt design. But much of the work in the show is built around the idea of using other peopleâ€™s designs – there are paintings on top of Ikea designs, ones that use recent Lilly Pulitzer designs, others that use well-known T-shirt motifs and classic paintings.
This kind of appropriation or quoting or borrowing or stealing – call it what you will – has been going on as a conscious strategy in the art world for many years now. Iâ€™ve written before about the Marlboro Man paintings of Richard Prince and how they use, without credit, the pictures of those who took the shots for the original ad campaigns. (I did a piece focusing on one of these ad photographers, who was upset that his work was being used.) Itâ€™s definitely an approach that does not sit well with some, especially those whose work is appropriated.
Thank you for taking the time to write to me about this.
Gagnath argues that it is legit for Pruitt to use When Pandas Attack without the consent of the original artist or without proper credit because, well, other people do it and because appropriation has been going on for years. Difference is, Pruitt did not in any way re-invision or re-interprate the original piece, he simply copied and pasted an original piece of copyrighted work and is now passing it off as his own.
That’s Rob Pruitt above, standing in front of Dimarucot’s and Benedict’s When Pandas Attack.
And here’s video of Pruitt’s exhibition opening.