Rob Pruitt’s Suicide Painting XXXIX is neither figurative nor abstract; the painting represents a state of mind, a place which—despite the title—is more about a feeling of safety rather than a place of despair. The artist explained that while the Suicide Paintings themselves aren’t related to literal attempts at taking one’s own life, they do evoke what he has described as a way out from dealing with anxiety of certain social situations. He explained how, at events such as art openings, he would often feel the need to escape and was always looking for a mode of escape—a feeling which came to be enshrined in the ethereal voids of his Suicide Paintings.
Ever since the beginning of his career in the early 1990s, Pruitt has walked the thin line between the playful and the provocative. For example, his candy-colored and sparkly renderings of the highly-endangered Giant Pandas sit in stark contrast to their fight for survival. Indeed, one of his most notorious works is his 1998 installation Cocaine Buffet which consisted of 16-foot-long mirror placed in a gallery group show that featured a trail of real cocaine running down its length, the drugs made available to any interested visitor to the exhibition.
The subject of a major retrospective at the Brant Foundation in 2015, Pruitt has been likened by some to Andy Warhol, in part for his both mocking and celebrating the nature of fame and celebrity. This is a connection that was strengthened in 2011 when he installed a public statue of Warhol himself in Union Square in New York, “as an alternative version of the Statue of Liberty that would welcome all the freaks and misfits (in which I include myself)” (R. Pruitt, quoted in “The Creators: Rob Pruitt,” New York Times, November 17, 2016 via www.nytimes.com [acessed 8/20/2017]).