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Empty City by Rick Prol

About this collection

OrangeHare presents “Surveillance Cat-O-Puss” by Rick Prol

Once hailed the “Master of Gothic Angst” by American art critic Edward Leffingwell, New York native Rick Prol was an active figure in the punk rock scene of the East Village in the 1980s. Although his works embody the dangerous and dark reality of the streets, beneath their gritty charm, there also exists a deep layer of pensive composition. Now fully digitized and animated for the first time ever, we are proud to announce that Rick Prol’s “Surveillance Cat-O-Puss” has been made exclusive for OrangeHare. From Shakespeare to Goya, this piece is consistent with his style, which draws inspiration from a variety of interests that seem to take root in that era’s fertile punk soil, ultimately growing into something that is both simultaneously unsettling, humorous, and truly one of a kind. As one of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s oldest friends and last studio assistant, Prol and Basquiat exchanged ideas with each other until Basquiat’s untimely death in 1988.

48.1% minted74 / 154
Rick Prol x OrangeHare

Rick Prol was born and raised in New York City where he currently lives and works. He attended Cooper Union College in 1980 and began showing his work publicly in 1982, during the then burgeoning East Village art scene. As art artic Eleanor Heartney writes, “The East Village art scene of the 80`s thrived on the romance of slumming in an era of widespread economic prosperity. Rick Prol was an icon of that era, known for his cartoonish tableaux of mayhem, murder and suicide set in a rat-infested world somewhere east of First Avenue” (Art in America, 1993)

Prol`s work exemplified and helped define with “anarchical impudence” the more dangerous and harrowing aspects of urban reality with images both horrific and absurd, but always with a touch of humor. Rick Prol had two solo exhibitions at Leeahn Gallery in Seoul and Deagu, Korea in 2021. He recently held a solo show Rick Prol: Empty City in James Fuentes Gallery.

Surveillance Cat-O-Puss

"Surveillance Cat O Puss" was conceived on September 9, 2001, just before the tragic 9/11 attacks on NYC. I had a premonition that something was coming, and it did.

The original concept for "Cat o Puss" was that of a surveillance cyborg, a multifaceted entity that could either embody malevolence or be a force for good, living to protect and serve us. This duality defines the character of Cat o Puss and leaves us to perceive it as either a guardian or a menace.

The creature wears Night Vision Goggles and, at the end of one of its many arms, a video camera for recording everything. Ironically, this highly advanced being maneuvers through the urban landscape atop an old-fashioned bicycle, equipped with an old-style policeman's Billy Club or "NightStick," a pistol, an M16-style assault rifle with a bayonet, a walkie-talkie device, and various other accessories. It roams the street dedicated to either causing chaos or keeping the peace, resulting in multiple iterations of this subject over the years.

This concept was born out of my reaction to the Heightened Threats and the government's response through the implementation of new Homeland Security measures. While these measures were designed to ensure our safety, they also raised concerns about potential misuse against us, giving rise to the concept of a cyborg creature with dual, Good and Evil manifestations, embodied by a creature with eight legs!

Empty City III

An empty train track suspended against a backdrop of city buildings late at night. This scene is devoid of any human presence or vehicles... but something lurks in their absence.

This cat is a common motif in Rick Prol's work, and transports the viewer to a bygone era in New York City, when elevated tracks still wound through the heart of downtown. Alternatively, it might conjure a contemporary atmosphere, akin to the sensation you experience while traversing the Williamsburg Bridge on the JMZ line, gazing into Brooklyn and back at the cityscape across the river.


Smithsonian Libraries Collection, NYC Hirschhorm Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington DC Ackland Art Museum, University of North Carolina Larry Aldrich Museum, Ridgefield, CT Contemporary Museum of Art, Chicago Holocaust Museum, Washington DC Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam Museum of Modern Art, NYC Guggenheim Museum NYC