The Obama Paintings


“At the end of a presidency, everybody scurries about trying to figure out what that president’s legacy will be. I did not want to highlight big moments – moments like the signing of the Affordable Care Act, the Iran Nuclear Deal, or the capture of Osama bin Laden – I wanted to depict a very measured, intellectual, capable statesman who showed up to work everyday and led; a leader with a long list of accomplishments we, as a nation, would be proud of.” – Rob Pruitt

Rob Pruitt began The Obama Paintings as a means of recording, and through recording, honoring, Barack Obama’s historic presidency. Beginning with the inauguration on January 20, 2009, each morning Pruitt created a two-foot-by-two-foot painting of President Obama, with particular imagery drawn from news of the day. The work was completed on January 20, 2017, Obama’s last day in office, and is comprised of 2,922 individual paintings.

The process for creating each work in The Obama Paintings was the same: a canvas was covered in a spectrum of red to blue; once an image was selected, often for its aesthetic qualities and composition, Pruitt painted it in white expressionist brushstrokes onto the background. This meditative process is further emphasized by the installation of the unframed works in a non-chronological, seamless grid. The expansive work incorporates the full scope of Obama’s presidency, from such seminal events as his first State of the Union address to seemingly mundane activities such as walking the dog or spending time with his family. Each canvas is given equal importance, regardless of the traditional metrics of newsworthiness of the moment it depicts.

Rob Pruitt’s The Obama Paintings serves as a monument in and of itself, as well as an examination of presidential monuments in general. The work considers the dissemination of images of past presidents and how they function in our society. The Obama Paintings is intended to be seen as a full picture of Obama’s two terms in office, presented not in chronological order, but rather as an integrated picture of the entire presidency.


About the Rebuild Foundation
Rebuild Foundation is an arts, education and cultural development organization committed to transforming urban communities. Founded by artist Theaster Gates, the organization support artists and strengthens communities by providing free arts programming, creating new cultural amenities and developing affordable housing, studio and live-work spaces. Rebuild Foundation also serves as a platform for other mission-aligned organizations by providing space, support and partnership around common goals.

About Rob Pruitt
Rob Pruitt (b. 1964, Washington, DC) works primarily in painting, installation, and sculpture to create playful reflections on popular culture. His work has been included in numerous museum exhibitions, including a recent exhibition at the Kunsthalle Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland (curated by Daniel Baumann) in 2018; at the Brant Foundation in Greenwich, CT (2015), a 2013 mid-career retrospective at the Aspen Art Museum, solo exhibitions at Dallas Contemporary (2011), Museum of Contemporary Art, Detroit (2015), Freiburg Kunstverein (2012); Le Consortium, Dijon (2002); and group shows such as “Empire State” at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Rome (2012), “Pop Life” at Tate Modern (2009), and “Mapping the Studio” at Punta Della Dogana/Palazzo Grassi, Venice (2009). In 2009, he debuted the “Rob Pruitt’s Art Awards,” at the Guggenheim Museum, an award show for the art world fashioned after the Oscars. In 2011, he was commissioned by the Public Art Fund to install “The Andy Monument,” a highly polished chrome sculpture of Andy Warhol (replete with shopping bags) in New York’s Union Square near the site of Warhol’s Factory. Pruitt studied at the Corcoran College of Art and Design in Washington, DC, and Parsons School of Design in New York. He lives and works in New York.

About Gavin Brown Enterprise
Gavin Brown’s enterprise (GBE) opened in New York in 1994 and has since consolidated its position as one of New York’s, and the world’s, foremost representatives of the finest artists of our time. Never wavering from its commitment to the community of artists it belongs to and fosters, the gallery has developed a unique and radical reputation for expanding notions of what art, and art galleries, can be and do today. Gavin Brown’s enterprise has locations in New York and Rome.

Hours & Location