Artist biography

American draughtsman. He completed his BFA at UCLA, CA, in 1977. He is best known for acerbic drawings that pitilessly critique contemporary culture. Using the comic-book format of images with text, he began his career creating photocopied fanzines. Taking as one of his primary themes the failure of the 1960s' subculture to resist authority, he savaged the hippy ethos, such as in an untitled drawing depicting a man resembling Charles Manson holding a bloodied knife near some dismembered feet; the text reads ‘somebody lit up a joint'. Distinguishing his work from the conceptual art that preceded him, Pettibon combined text and image to poetic and darkly lyrical ends rather than for intellectual or philosophical purposes. His use of text has more in common with that of Jenny Holzer or Barbara Kruger, in that the speaking voice seldom comes from one stable absolute position. Instead the text reads as a fragmented decentralized narrative, often ending abruptly without conclusion. The drawing style is also presented as a language, employed in such a way as to have the most direct communicative power. A variety of characters including semi-naked women, baseball players, surfers and comic-book figures are placed in a world of dark satire and metaphysical musings about art. In this work a baseball player is accompanied by a text reading ‘which is not skill merely, but skill in the service of beauty'. Applying literary traditions to a vernacular image system, Pettibon sought to redefine attitudes toward values in art and culture.

Bibliography
Raymond Pettibon (exh. cat., essay U. Loock, Berne, Ksthalle, 1995)
Raymond Pettibon: A Reader (exh. cat., essays B. Wolt and others, Philadelphia, PA, Mus. A., 1998)

FRANCIS SUMMERS
10 December 2000

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