3 April 2017
Raymond Pettibon has been drawing for thirty years. Compulsively. He is said to have made some 20,000 unique drawings, along with fanzines and videos. Eight hundred of them are currently on show at the New Museum in New York (ending soon). His style is pop and the line recalls comic strips and satirical cartoons, but it is this familiarity that catches you out. Without you realizing it, the artist invites you to consider the apocalypse as a real possibility, and its heralds are dozens of Bushes, superheroes, hippies, gurus, surfers, Trumps and all the icons of American mythology, hard core of the society of which he too is part, whose vulnerable Achilles’ heel is suddenly revealed. For this exhibition, highly political by the standards of the New Museum, all Pettibon’s magazines (commencing with his very first zine Captive Chains, of 1978) have been digitized and are presented in a double display: the originals in a showcase and all the rest viewable on convenient tablets. Then come the drawings, where what strikes you is a bestial humanity, prey to an ill-concealed erotic desire and investigated in all its facets: from beliefs to sentiments, from morality to religion. From one side to the other of the three floors of the museum, unscrupulous reporters swoop like vultures on the dead and the victims of war, Superman is a sex-obsessed fascist and American counterculture, represented by the charismatic guru Charles Manson, active in Los Angeles in the 1960s and an accomplice in numerous murders, has betrayed hopes and utopian ideas. With each work, Pettibon associates a text, a mixture of literary quotations and his own thoughts, and injects a caustic and demystifying, but always ambiguous message. His world is elliptical: it is a distortion of reality in which the actors return, demand attention and contradict each other grotesquely. And it is here that Pettibon’s strength lies: his art is bulimic and feeds on the two real pillars of Western society, doubt and fear.
Raymond Pettibon: A Pen of All Work
Curated by Gary Carrion-Murayari and Massimiliano Gioni
New Museum, New York
February 8-April 9, 2017