Raymond Pettibon’s electric union of pen stroke and word has had the Big Apple abuzz since the New Museum opened ‘Raymond Pettibon: A Pen of All Work’ last month. As the artist’s first major museum survey exhibition in New York, the New Museum’s retrospective brings together over 700 drawings, arranged in stunning fashion, ranging from the late 1960s to today – the largest presentation of his work to date.
An indelible fixture in American art since the 1980s, Pettibon’s concurrently graphic and poetic style has rarely been experienced en masse like this. Filling the museum’s three main floors, his drawings articulate how cultural values have shifted across the decades in a raw and emotional way. From the idealistic postwar period of his early childhood to the military and social conflicts that dominate the present, Pettibon’s drawings and installations take on a reinvigorated significance when viewed against a contemporary backdrop.
Pettibon has scrawled artworks directly onto the walls of the New Museum
Curated by Gary Carrion-Murayari and Massimiliano Gioni, the New Museum’s exhibition includes drawings of numerous scales and the artist’s self-produced zines from his early career, as well as videos made with other artists and musician friends to provide an intimate perspective on his vibrant practice.
Pettibon, who was born in 1957, rose to fame for his work on advertisements and record covers and came to be known for his outspoken style and ties to the 1980s LA punk rock scene – primarily his work with Black Flag and SST records – acerbically voicing and visualising the thoughts of a disillusioned youth of which he was a part (he was born Raymond Ginn, ditching the surname to avoid association with President Ronald Reagan, a figure derided by said punk scene).
Regardless of size or medium, Pettibon’s works are consistently charged with a latent energy, thanks to the incredibly detailed and painterly style that his pen strokes produce. Peppered with cultural fixtures from literature, comics and television on one hand, and dominated by his colourful and highly expressive approach on the other, Pettibon’s complex, smoldering oeuvre serves as powerful commentary on American culture.