‘There are two types of people at a typical Raymond Pettibon opening. One type is drawn to the epigrams and discomfiting punch lines buried in Pettibon’s seemingly blithe drawings and paintings — serious folks who like to be seriously poked in the eye by art. Then there are the cheerier souls who come to see another beach bum play with cartoons. Both were out in force at the Regen Projects gallery last Saturday for Pettibon’s new show. A mix of the grave and the merry sipped glasses of cheap white gallery wine and walked in slow circles around Regen’s big atrial room, some glowering, some smiling at Pettibon’s waves, trains and baseball players, which were pinned to the walls as though they’d just been torn from his sketchpad (his preferred style of presentation).
‘Pettibon loomed in the corner, looking as if he’d just been torn from something himself. Judging from his dirty white Jamaica tourist T-shirt, stained plaid-patterned trousers and sooty slip-on Vans, it might have been art or possibly something refuse-related. Despite being a walking antithesis of the L.A. gallery scene, the diffident Pettibon has assumed rock star status on that scene. Fans come to his shows wearing Pettibon T-shirts. They carry his books around. They vie for his bygone-feeling lithographs like archivists fighting over early Beatles LPs. And though possibly the least self-promotional artist in this or any city, Pettibon has lately become a sensation in the art world at large.
‘He had a one-man show at the Whitney Museum of American Art last year and a spread in the New York Times Magazine. At the moment, he’s in Venice (Italy) scribbling on commission in a palazzo. After that he’ll be drawing something on the wall of a library in the Hague. At Regen, well-wishers unacquainted with his stoical manner approached Pettibon and tried to talk to him as he stood against the wall, circumspect as an Easter Island maoi. “Huh,” he said to one man, with a halting nod, in answer to the man’s enthusiastic drawn out point.
‘A woman who’d just stepped out of a Porsche on the street, wearing a black T-shirt that read “Dior Addict” in large white letters, approached Pettibon with a crazed look on her face and a monograph of his perched in her hands like a votive offering. “Hi, Raymond, I love your work and I want — ” she began. Pettibon averted his eyes. As she talked, he drew a big wave in her book — he likes drawing waves, and surfers, though in his vision water often has an minatory aboriginal look — and signed it “Lovingly, Raymond Pettibon.” The Dior addict left the gallery beaming and went outside to show off the book. Someone remarked on his intimate wording. “Maybe I’ll give him my underwear,” she said, joking, though one got the idea she might have already done so.
‘In person, there’s nothing phenomenal about Pettibon (except perhaps his height). He looks at once younger and older than his 48 years, wears his hair like an abandoned seaweed farm and rides the bus to and from his mother’s house in Hermosa Beach, where he grew up. It’s a gorgeous contradictory L.A. picture, like Gumby watching copulation or a nude dance scene in Abu Ghraib (both images in the show). Pettibon winces at compliments, even when they come from friends. Yet women now talk about giving him their underwear. “He doesn’t have a lot of will to be a great artist — he just a great artist,” Shaun Kaley Regen, his gallerist, said. “I don’t think things have changed very much for him. He seems like the same person I knew 15 years ago.”
‘In public, Regen looks after Pettibon in a warm, maternal way. After the show she held a large dinner party for him in the back garden of the restaurant Dominicks. About 60 collectors and curators, along with a few hipster hangers-on, stood around eating prosciutto and risotto balls. Pettibon hovered dutifully by the bar, drinking a bottled beer. Everything seemed OK. Suddenly, two women in string-strap tops took ahold of him and insisted that he stand between them for a picture. They leaned in and put their arms around him. He crossed his arms nervously and a surprised frown took over his face.
‘Somewhat inconveniently for Pettibon, whose real name is Raymond Ginn (his father used to call him petit bon, little good one; his brother is Greg Ginn of Black Flag fame), he’s a native son of L.A., so many Angelenos feel obliged to form an attachment to him. That the members of the Dior addict wing of his fan base often own his art doesn’t help. “I have about 18 Pettibons,” one collector said, as though he were discussing ties or skateboards.
‘Meanwhile, Pettibon endures the social demands of his work, sometimes even gamely breaking the hermetic seal. In the corner of Regen Projects, before leaving for the dinner, a crowd had gathered around him as he stood against a door and squiggled little curios on invitations and odd scraps of paper. There was a wave. There was a tree. A woman nearly as tall as Pettibon, with a very small dog in her arms, elbowed through. “This is Stinky,” she announced. Pettibon drew a dog. “What kind of dog is it, Raymond?” he was asked. “I don’t know,” Pettibon said with a sigh. “You’ve seen one dog, you’ve seen them all.”‘ — LA Times
Artists Talk: Raymond Pettibon
Raymond Pettibon’s video ‘Sir Drone’ (excerpt)
Raymond Pettibon’s ‘THE WHOLE WORLD IS WATCHING: WEATHERMAN ’69’ (excerpt)
Raymond Pettibon Super Session Live at Bogart’s
Raymond Pettibon lecture & performance at Beyond Baroque
Raymond Pettibon & Mike Watt / Riverside Art Museum
Raymond Pettibon: The Punk Years, 1978-1986 x Blood Beach
Lee Ranaldo on Raymond Pettibon
Raymond Pettibon & Keiji Haino – Sofiensaale, Berlin
Raymond Pettibon Website
Raymond Pettibon @ Twitter
PRETTY MUCH EVERY SINGLE BLACK FLAG FLYER DESIGNED BY RAYMOND PETTIBON
Raymond Pettibon @ David Zwirner
‘HUMAN WAVE – THE VIDEOTAPES OF RAYMOND PETTIBON’
Raymond Pettibon interviewed @ Interview
Raymond Pettibon interviewed @ Bomb
Raymond Pettibon book @ Phaidon
‘Raymond Pettibon – The Game of Words and Pics’
Raymond Pettibon @ Discogs
‘Raymond Pettibon’s High Line Billboard’
Raymond Pettibon’s videos @ Electronic Arts Intermix
‘Raymond Pettibon: Return to Disorder and Disfiguration’
Raymond Pettibon’s studio’
‘The Pettibon Story
‘What Remains To Be Said’
‘Album Covers by Raymond Pettibon’
from The Believer
Believer: Books have also had a big influence on your art, and you’ve said that sometimes it’s not just a matter of editing the lines you put in but that the lines themselves become your context. Can you explain?
Raymond Pettibon: I think that was in reference to my drawings where the lines are actually cut out from the text and put in, although it doesn’t have to be. The distinction is hardly there. There are instances where lines in my work are borrowed or stolen from sources, mainly from books, or they become my own versions. A lot of the writing is my own, too. But if someone were to take each drawing and trace it back to its source, most of them could be traced back to a book or a text.
BLVR: You’ve also said that while you’re working the drawing seems like a chore and what you like best is the writing. Has that always been the case?
RP: Yeah, definitely. I think I always enjoy the writing more. If you saw every show or every book I’ve been in—and this is coming from someone who’s considered to have produced a gratuitous amount of work—you would see what I mean. But drawing is also one of my favorite things to do.
BLVR: Do you start a picture with drawing or with writing?
RP: There’s no set formula. Though I guess nowadays I tend to start with the drawing. At first, for some years, I didn’t at all. It was always the idea that came first, and the idea had the visual concept to it, and that’s when I came in and did the drawing. Now it’s a combination of the two.
BLVR: Who are some of your literary influences?
RP: If I was going to do any favors for someone who’s interested in the extent of my borrowing, I’d say, and this doesn’t necessarily mean these are my favorite writers, but Henry James would be the most obvious, both his fiction and letters. Also, right now I’ve been reading Emily Dickinson’s letters, though I don’t think I’ve borrowed anything from her poetry. Not yet anyway. Thomas Browne, too, and Ruskin. I borrow from noir, but that’s mostly visual. Mickey Spillane is an interesting writer in a way. His directness. Come to think of it, he started in comics, which figures. Again, I don’t mean that in a bad way. He was just so over-the-top and black and white with no shades in between. Today he could be writing for Commentary or Public Interest. But visually, noir was a big influence on me and still is.
There was a period when I was getting a lot of my images from television. And this might be disappointing to my fans, like, now the visual universe is phony, too, but I had this video recorder for a long time that took still images from television. They lasted five seconds, and I would take images from Peter Gunn and noir films of the thirties, forties, and fifties. If you look at TV in that way it’s almost always a shot of talking heads. The only interesting visual compositions are of some kind of violence, with guns and fists and bodies. It’s always one extreme or another. So it was less because I had some abiding interest in violence or gangsters, and more because that was what was visually interesting. And you could say that about any of my imagery, really. There’s not much of an emotional involvement or commitment to it. And that’s really saying something, because it’s those couple of years back then, with that recorder on my TV, that I’ll be paying for for the rest of my life. Once things hit the critical discourse they stay there and they replicate like viruses until they take over the artist. Seriously. Some artists go with that and become what they’ve been made to be. Some fight it and retool and redefine themselves. I don’t consciously do either. But that’s still going to be the first thing people think about me, whether they’ve actually seen the work or not. That’s not a major complaint. But it’s like with the punk thing: yes, I think it was very important in music, and I was there and all that, but now I’m going to be the punk artist for the rest of my life. Which is kind of amusing, and a comment on the press and the critics.
BLVR: People seem to like categorizing you.
RP: Yeah. It’s funny, because there isn’t such a thing as a close reading in the art world anymore. There used to be. There was a time when there would be a close reading of a painting or a sculpture to an almost parodic or ridiculous extent, but not anymore. I don’t mean to sound dismissive of the press, or to give you some anticritic diatribe. For the most part I think the level of writing in art is very high.
BLVR: But is it fair to say that noirish themes—depraved sexuality, violence, self-loathing, booze-addled women—run through your art?
RP: Well, yeah, there’s that interpretation. But as I said, that really has more to do with the formulaic qualities, the compositions, in noir. Personally, I don’t like violence and blood. I turn my head at anything like that. The thing is, there can be more interest in that sort of thing for me, and for many people, in works of art. Just the action of it, the violence inferred, tends to get a certain reaction that’s more interesting. On the other hand, I’m not Pollyannaish about it. I’m for opening the prisons.
BLVR: Do you think of your art as overtly sinister or morbid, or does it have more to do with hope and redemption? I don’t mean that in a biblical way.
RP: I don’t know if it goes that far in either direction, really, or begins or even ends there. I believe in redemption, sure, as much as we have it on earth. For the record, I don’t believe in any spiritual redemption. But my work is much more complicated than redemption or no redemption. I do feel it’s dangerous, both on a personal and a political level, to be anything other than forgiving. The stakes are just too high nowadays. I don’t want to express violence or anger or hate in my art. I want to express forgiveness. That’s the nature of my art in general. It’s expressing love and compassion, the kinds of things that don’t make sense in any other context other than emotive expression.
BLVR: Some of your drawings—and I’m thinking of works like the one of the pistol with the caption “My bout with depression lasted five chambers,” or of the old woman with the words “My mother was a monster who ate children”—have a sinister quality, or maybe it’s just dark humor. In any case, there’s this disjuncture between the drawings and the text that adds a lot of humor.
RP: That’s true for the most part. Usually it’s because the image and the text are at such a complete disjuncture from each other, or unrelated, almost random, so that one has nothing whatsoever to do with the other. But I don’t know how much I can say that’s conscious on my part. I’ve never been good at planning or directing my work towards specific things. Also, these sorts of things tend to get internalized to the point where they become second nature. It’s a technique for setting up conflict and resolution, perhaps, but I’m not filling in punch lines, like with cartoons. Eisenstein’s stuff was all about that clash of images, with montages and snippets of this and that. But that can become trite if it’s taken too far.
BLVR: Some of your drawings are much more “accomplished”—for lack of a better word—than others. Is that a stylistic thing related to the content of your drawings? Do you deliberately under-draw sometimes?
RP: No, I don’t think I usually do. Unless, maybe occasionally, if it’s for a certain affect in an individual drawing. I don’t know how often that occurs, but not often. But otherwise, no, I don’t try to under-draw. You might be thinking of earlier drawings. Some of my work can impress you as being from another person altogether. And in a sense it is. I have a tendency to think that some of my early work is better than anyone could have expected from me then, or even now. I think, if anything, for a while now my work is getting way too—I don’t know, it’s losing some of the best things that drawing has to offer, which is its easy facility and its ability to depict things with a few strokes of the brush without laboring over it and trying this and that, scraping, painting over. It’s not getting better. To its detriment, in fact, it’s losing something. And sometimes I sort of wish I could get back to the earlier drawing. But I don’t think that’s possible. It’s possible to try, but I think it would end up looking the way an artist’s work inevitably looks when he goes back to children’s drawings.
BLVR: Why do you think that is?
RP: I don’t know. I don’t know what it’s telling me. I’m missing the message.
BLVR: Do you think your creative process is becoming more deliberate as you get older?
RP: I don’t know. You can become too close to it while you’re doing it to have that remove from critical acuity. It’s like when I go out on the dance floor and the whole floor clears and everyone’s watching. I don’t know how I’m doing. I guess good. Maybe not. I’m joking, but what I’m saying is, it’s the same effect.
BLVR: So it’s about your audience’s response?
RP: Yeah, it’s about response, and the reaction shots before and after. But I’m pretty much on my own as far as audience goes, because my community of fans—I’m not sure if it even properly exists.
p.s. Hey. ** JM, Hey, J. Happy to hear that about you and your partner. If you sense sincerity and honesty in that grouping of guys, it’s probably true. Because I’m continually searching for candidates and making future posts, who’s who in which post gets kind of mixed up in my head by the time the posts appear. I’m a firm believer that you should write whatever is burning to be written, and if projects get laid aside in the process, that’s that. I’ve only ever worked that way. I’m just excited to read this new poetic work if it continues to interest you to the completion point. France is de-messing, at least on the COVID front, at least for right now, but there’s a very large outcry/protests against this fascist new surveillance law that Macron is trying to pass. And, this being France, the largesse of the protests has made the government promise to reconsider the law. The people vs. government relationship has a long history of being relatively healthy here. Enjoy the Woolf. My favorite of hers is ‘Mrs. Dalloway’. I think friendship love is the best manifestation of that emotional warhorse. And generalising terminology is bullshit anyway. Great to see you! ** Bzzt, Hey! I’m doing pretty good, thanks. France is on the upswing on the pandemic front, at least for the time being. Stores just reopened last week. I was lucky enough to publish two of Derek’s books back in my Little House on the Bowery series. Oh, man, I’m sorry you’re going through such a rough time emotionally. If dwelling is your way of sorting through your grief, yeah, you have to do that. The thing is to always be looking for a way out and a way to fully reconnect with the present. Grief is an intense drug/state, and I think it’s easy to get overprotective of it. But, yeah, do what you need to do, and others around you need to understand and respect that you’re on your own with that. Excellent about the new story! And I’m glad to hear you’re prioritising your fiction, i.e. letting yourself work on the deeper/higher level. Or that’s how I view it. I hope your heart eases soon and smoothly, my friend. ** David Ehrenstein, I have yet to see COVID fetishising and the lust for COVID pozzing amongst the slave/master set, but it seems inevitable. ** G, HI, G! I know, not bad, right? That sentence. How are you? Is everything going really well, I hope? ** Misanthrope, Like minds, eh? Cool. More pain, newer pain? Dude, something’s amiss. You’ll see 50, but that’s too young to be hobbling. Somebody better fix your shit pronto. So facilitate that. Aw, I just read somewhere that Panchito’s finally closed. So sad. I can’t believe it stayed open as long as it did, but I loved that mediocre place. ** _Black_Acrylic, I think you might be right about that. About the lockdown-influenced creativity. Huh. There’s a new David Keenan novel? That’s passed me by for some reason. So thanks for the scoop, pal. ** Steve Erickson, Yeah, it was kind of the S&M equivalent of ‘Who’s on Third’. I think I did allow some erect penises to appear in that post, which I had been avoiding doing for a few months. Can’t keep a rebellious blogger down, I guess. ** Bill, I have noticed that there have been an increasing number of supposedly straight identifying escorts and slaves putting themselves on offer lately, and I’ve been thinking the lockdown’s downtime = self-contemplation has either outed them to themselves or made them so bored that even getting fucked by a dude sounds exciting. Yeah, I too don’t really think shopping is a big COVID culprit except maybe for the people who work at the shops. At least in France, shop employees are pretty high up on the ‘get the vaccine first’ list, just after frontline medical workers and really old folks. I know the name Ithell Colquhoun, but that’s it. Thanks, Bill. I’ll go try to figure him out for real. ** Brian O’Connell, Hi, Brian. It’s not a month unless a bunch of witty, depressing, scarifying slaves are waiting at the exit. That’s my opinion, apparently. Mm, my favourite Bergman is ‘Hour of the Wolf’. But I’m a real fan of his in general. Especially the earlier ones in the ‘Persona’ period. My friend the musician Stephen O’Malley is right now staying on the island where Bergman lived and filmed a number of his movies. It’s a residency of some kind, I think. I don’t think I’ve ever done a Bergman Day, which is so weird too realise. Okay, on it. Favorite video games? Like, of all time? If so, let’s see … First, your brother should know I’m a diehard Nintendo guy. So, totally off the top of my head and sticking to console games (rather than computer-based games), I would say (in no order) ‘Conker’s Bad Fur Day’, ‘Zelda: Windwaker,’ ‘Zelda: Ocarina of Time’, ‘Banjo Kazooie’, ‘Eternal Darkness’, ‘Resident Evil 4’, ‘Pikmin 2’, ‘Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door’, … I’d better stop or I’ll just keep going. What are your brother’s faves? Yes, happy start to December! ** Okay. I thought I would restore this post about the great Raymond Pettibon that I made some many odd years ago. Enjoy, one hopes. See you tomorrow.