The Obama Paintings

Opening: Thursday, Apr 18, 2019 7 – 9 pm
Thursday, Apr 18 – Aug 25, 2019

6760 S. Stony Island Avenue
Chicago (60649)

“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.