Raymond Pettibon -- Some early works

Raymond Pettibon
Some early works
29/06/2012 - 08/09/2012

Since the later 1970s, the American artist Raymond Pettibon has been making drawings that achieve a bilingualism of text and image. The relationship between text and image is not clarified in these works, but dissolved. This exhibition at Georg Kargl BOX presents a selection of drawings created between 1980 and 1990.  Born in Tucson in 1957, Pettibon grew up in the Los Angeles area and got a degree in economics at UCLA. During his student years he drew political cartoons for the college newspaper. At the beginning of his artistic career, he designed flyers, record covers, and posters, some of which were collected in fanzines. His medium has always been the drawing. This placed him initially on the margins of the art world, for drawing was then still conceived as an auxiliary medium to painting rather than a medium of its own accord. The works now on view at Georg Kargl BOX are from an early period of the artist’s career, when he still worked primarily in black ink; with their contrasts of light and dark, these works reflect the strong influence of the world of film noir.

For the texts in his works, he draws on a non-linear repertoire of fiction and scholarly work. “These particles of meaning from a larger context thus get caught in the orbit of his thought, and surface, more or less varied, in the ribbons of that surround his drawings.”[1] In his motifs, Pettibon ranges between high and low culture, between the trivial and the sublime, religion and commerce, comics and politics.

In their visual appearance, his works are strongly reminiscent of comics, both in their execution and in their combination of image and text. The basis for his drawings include photographs of the most varied origins, newspaper cuttings, film and video stills. In the constitutive gap between the image and the text, which have no meaningful relationship to one another, new spaces of imagination and thought open for the beholder. He compares his methods of sampling to those of musicians who insert part of a recording in a new context. His proximity to this genre comes from his brother, who as the lead singer of the band Black Flag secured the young Pettibon jobs for designing record covers.

In his visual language, Pettibon is always quite clear, because he compacts social relations in the simplest motifs. The artist grasps many of the general structures of behavior of American society from a subcultural perspective, staging them with great accuracy in his work. “But Raymond Pettibon is not interested in standing out as a critic of the American way of life and its rebellious counter universes. He takes a position of complete disengagement. Pettibon registers, caricatures, disturbs, but never takes a position.”[2]


[1] Whatever It Is You’re Looking for You Won’t Find It Here: Raymond Pettibon, Kunsthalle Wien (Nuremberg: Verlag für Moderne Kunst, 2006), 7

[2] Ibid., 185