the back room of an art gallery
where artists and art lovers hang
Raymond Pettibon, No Title (Wave Group),
2004, 11 Drawings together as one work; ink and watercolor on paper , 120 x 187 in
© Courtesy of the artist and David Zwirner, NY
© Courtesy of Raymond Pettibon & David Zwirner Gallery
© Courtesy of David Zwirner New York
Raymond Pettibon, No Title (If Tom Cruise) ,
2007, Pen, ink, and graphite on paper , 30 x 22 1/2 in
© Courtesy of David Zwirner New York
Raymond Pettibon, Issue 30 Raymond Pettibon, No Title (New Saint),
1978, Pen and Ink on Paper, 9 1/4 x 12 1/2 inches
© Courtesy Regen Projects
Even Toothless She Can Still Bite Off A Boys Head,
1983, Mixed Media on Paper, 8" x 11"
© Raymond Pettibon
No Title (Life is a); Detail of the original drawing for the “Play Ball”, 1987 ,
1989, Ink on paper; Signed and dated in ink on recto, Sheet: 23 x 16.25 inches
Raymond Pettibon, At Least I Got To See Vegas,
© Raymond Pettibon
Raymond Pettibon, Repeater Pencil,
2004 , video installation
© Courtesy of the artist & World Class Boxing
© Raymond Pettibon
© Courtesy of the artist & David Zwirner- 533 W. 19th
Raymond Pettibon, (Untitled) I See Before Me…,
© Courtesy of the artist & IPCNY International Print Center New York
Raymond Pettibon, No Title (My Blue Heaven),
2006, Pen, ink and collage on paper, 18" 3/4 x 25"
Karen Bystedt, Andy with American Flag,
Archival pigment print
Raymond Pettibon, No Title (This is where),
1987, Black and red ink on paper, Signed and dated on verso, Image: 22.5 x 16.5 inches, Sheet: 24 x 18 inches, Estimated Gallery Price: $40,000/$60,000
© SANTA MONICA AUCTIONS
No Title (Paint fills them...) ,
2003, pen and ink on paper; courtesy the artist and Regen Projects, Los Angeles
© Raymond Pettibon; photo: Don Ross
© Courtesy of the Artist and Leslie Sacks Contemporary
© Courtesy of the Artist and Sadie Coles HQ - South Audley St
© Courtesy of the artist & David Zwirner
Raymond Pettibon (born Raymond Ginn) is an American artist and sometime musician and lyricist. Known for his comic-like drawings with disturbing, ironic or ambiguous captions, Pettibon's subject matter is sometimes violent and anti-authoritarian. He works primarily in ink on paper and many of his drawings are monochromatic, although he sometimes introduces color through the use of crayon, pencil,...[more]
A Conversation with Raymond Pettibon
Venice, CA, 2009: An inveterate punk, aesthetically and politically, the contemporary art world has adopted Raymond Pettibon, LA’s native son for any number of polemics, exhibitions, and critiques. And for good reason, the iconic work of his pen and ink drawings capture a epic range of human emotion and experience that's distinctly dark, literary, and American. Besides the official art beatification, it’s his work, usually as drawings gracing the covers of Black Flag records, that many young artists I’ve talked to over the years cite as their point of entry into contemporary art. He’s less known for his strange and intense video works and occasional collaborations, like the one he did with Yoshua Okon, titled Hipnostasis, 2009. I organized an exhibition of this work in Pasadena last summer and spoke to Raymond on that occasion. (This interview conducted at Pettibon’s studio in Venice, CA with Camille Weiner on hand with a recorder and moral support.)
Raymond Pettibon, No Title (Wave Group), 2004, 11 Drawings together as one work; ink and watercolor on paper, 120 x 187 inches; Courtesy of David Zwirner, NY
Andrew Berardini: Raymond, are you working on anything specific now?
Raymond Pettibon: Usually I’m just trying to catch up. This stuff takes so long to do really. If there’s a show I try to finish more work than start new ones.
AB: I first heard of you and Yoshua’s collaboration at a John Bock show at REDCAT where I ran into you guys. I was curious if you could talk about how it came together.
RP: It was kind of nebulous. We wanted to do something together. We just thought of ideas. It was something along the lines of past lives and regression therapy. We went to this past-life therapist, the kind with a couch and hypnotic states (or feigned hypnotic states cause you don’t want to show her up that you’re not hypnotized). Some of the people you saw in the finished work, they started in the early footage, shooting without a script, just trying out directions and ideas, shooting them in their environments. Originally, we had some scripted parts with some other situations, interior scenes, but it didn’t coalesce. Maybe it made more sense to abandon the quasi-narrative. We were still able to work some of the history and context, references specifically to Venice, especially the Venice of the 60s and 70s. Amazingly Venice has retained some of the remnants of that period. This guys aren’t from central casting.
Raymond Pettibon & Yoshua Okon, Hipnostasis (installation view), 2009; Photo credit: Primo Catalano / Armory Center for the Arts; Courtesy of David Zwirner, NY
AB: As much as these guys are part of what’s leftover from the 60s and 70s, they’re not going to be around forever. And that history will go with them.
RP: I’m not going to be around forever either. I wouldn’t say they’re homeless, most of those guys are industrious. And there are worst places to live in the world where you don’t have steady jobs, business attire, and mortgages.
AB: Yoshua makes a distinction that they’re beach bums and not bums.
RP: I don’t have any problem with the terminology. Like I said, they’re industrious enough. And it’s much less a parasitical and predatory lifestyle and living standard than guys on Wall Street. They’re on the public dole too with many more zeros behind those figures.
AB: It’s sort of noble how these guys have stepped out of the rat race.
RP: People do drop out for whatever reason. I imagine they’ve all signed with agents now and they’re going on casting calls and networking and hanging out. They’re probably getting a lot of work already.
AB: Outside of the guys, I was curious how this project connects to your other work. I know you’ve done other collaborations in the past.
RP: I’ve done a lot of video. Practically speaking, it’s basically still the image and the words. If you wanted to make that connection more obvious and explicit you could look at some of these drawing here in the studio as storyboards or scripts. Sometimes, both words and images don’t individually have enough. Yoshua and I didn’t have a real working script in the end or an idea of what we’d get in the end or the progress that we’d make. I’m used to working from a moving image. There wasn’t much action. In my drawings, you could imagine any of these as stills from a video. Each image has a history behind it. Working with Yoshua wasn’t hard to do at all, it’s not like being directed by a tyrant with an eye patch and a monocle and speaking with a German accent. Neither was it a typical relationship with a screenwriter that Hollywood is famous for. There wasn’t any bloodletting. Yoshua’s a person who I have a lot of respect for, both him and his work. I don’t know if you could chart what we do best, we both work in images and words. I think his camera skills are such that I just as well would have him handle that. All you have to do is hold a camera reasonably steady - that would disqualify me as well. All you have to do is point and make sure the lens cap is off. This wasn’t a long film, but when you have to reshoot for hours, like I have to do, it makes you want to quit.
Raymond Pettibon, No Title (The black holes. . .), 2007, Pen, ink, gouache, collage, and graphite on paper. Image Size: Framed: 29 3/4 x 33 1/8 inches 75.6 x 84.1 cm Paper:26 3/8 x 30 1/4 inches 67 x 76.8 cm; Courtesy of David Zwirner, NY
AB: Drawing’s a little bit easier for you then?
RP: Than point a camera? I wish it was. One thing about drawing, there’s not any cast or productions. But that wasn’t the case for this piece either really. When you let the camera roll, you find the natural role.
AB: In a recent work, you reference Samuel Beckett, and light becomes a metaphor for consciousness in his work, which he often finds unrelenting. LA is known for its light in much fuzzier terms, could you talk a little about light in your video work, especially those shot, like Hipnostasis, in LA?
RP: That’s why people tend to come here, retire. If we start complaining about the light... Beckett has an insidious side, as if he’s playing with an ant farm or a high security prison or an interrogation room, the light is on all day and all night and we lose track of time. This piece, they weren’t put on the spot like that. Nobody was challenging them to justify their existence or their existential game, asking them to jump through hoops. No one’s chasing them.
AB: One of the fundamentals of Beckett is that words fail, they can never fully capture the complexity of a moment. It seems in your work, there’s a place where pictures come in when words fail, or even that words come in where pictures fail, which is something I sometimes feel about your own work.
RP: We could spend 20 plus years and thousands of pages demonstrating how words fail. There is no ultimate communication, except maybe the Vulcan Mindlock. It’s not like I meant to apologize for being verbose, I don’t buy into the purity of the spare image or the blank canvas. There’s something kind of trite about that. There’s something to be said for having an economy of language, in drawing even. I know when a drawing has been overlooked. I see it, always too late, but I see it. It’s the same with words and communication. It’s nice to be able to say something with an economy of means.
ArtSlant would like to thank Raymond Pettibon for his assistance in making this interview possible.