Monday, February 27, 2017

Raymond Pettibon at the New Museum

     These days Twitter looms large ala Trump. If one didn't know that Raymond Pettibon started adding text to his work in the mid-2000s, it would seem as if he was inspired by Twitter, which is not the case. Most of the text in his pieces do resemble short social media posts, some clear and concise, some scattered or truncated like a random late night thought (cough, Trump reference again, cough)  or lines lifted from poems or lyrics.




The political bent of many pieces read at times like the work of an internet troll, except the internet wasn't around for someone to remark on Manson, the hippie movement, drugs, Watergate, JFK, Vietnam and so on. Pettibon comments on these with the tone of someone who lived through it all and saw upclose the effects on his and others' lives.









     I get the feeling that there's a bitterness, a disappointment for him the way some of these things turned out that many were optimistic about at first like LSD or the hippie lifestyle. Although not really old enough to be fully invested in either (he was 10 in '67, 13 in '70, etc) he was old enough to be aware of the turmoils in society, to see and hear the ripple effects of the War, Nixon, drugs etc. Later, the Iraq War and Reagan would rear their heads in his work. One cannot help but wonder what Mr. Pettibon is going to produce now and in the next few years with the unusual and extreme election we just had and the results that are yet to unfold.


     His first notoriety came from doing the artwork for older brother Greg Ginn's punk band, Black Flag in 1976.

     There are several aspects to his work: juvenile doodler, prolific output, strong composition, illustration, fine art, activistic commentary, and an "outsider artist" aspect to some of the artwork as well as the seemingly burning pace and "need" to produce. True or not, several who've seen this show have expressed similar thoughts. One thing for sure, this exhibit is intense, almost exhausting because there is so much to see and most of it reaches out and grabs or punches the viewer.


     Other subjects of Mr. Pettibon's pen and brush are surfing (monster waves), baseball, cathedrals, war, celebrities, cartoon references like Gumby and Va-Voom from Felix the Cat, music and politics. His illustrator's composition skills are apparent as he weaves these images with text, a feat not as easy as it might seem to the viewer.









     One thing is clear, the addition of text is what set his work apart and brought it to another level.
Some of it is lengthy with additional text being added on at different times. Some is clear and succinct, other bits of text are convoluted, snippets, or one liner jabs/jokes. One of the more interesting parts of the exhibit shows pages from books and magazines where he cut out lines and marked them up for use in his art. A cool insight into his process.

     This quote from the NY Times is his answer to a question about how much of his text is original:  “I wouldn’t hazard a guess. But it’s not one or the other. Nothing comes out of thin air. We all live with the same language and influences.” He added, “I’m just the conduit, the messenger.”













"Raymond Pettibon: A Pen of All Work"
Runs through April 9, 2017
New Museum, Manhattan; 212-219-1222, newmuseum.org.

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