lecture at Wieden + Kennedy, 224 NW 13th, 242-1419, Thursday April 7, 7 pm, $12
One of the most common responses I get from non-gallery-going friends and family is that they don't "get" art, as if they don't possess the decoder ring that will suddenly pop abstract paintings into focus like a Magic Eye poster in the mall. To me, not "getting" art is the highest pleasure that can be derived from any aesthetic experience. With the best works of art, I never "get" it. Once I get it, the magic of beholding it disappears.
Fortunately, this has never been a problem with the work of Los Angeles artist Raymond Pettibon, who was one of the most widely exhibited artists of the '90s and a major force in the reemergence of drawing in the art world. Years before I had ever cracked an Artforum, Pettibon's cover art for Sonic Youth's LP Goo stole my teenage imagination. In Pettibon's signature black ink illustrative style, two sunglassed hipsters smoked a cig and sat silently, while the handwritten text read, "I stole my sister's boyfriend. It was all whirlwind, heat, and flash. Within a week we killed my parents and hit the road." On the inside album art, a woman attended to a concerned looking man, and across the top was written, "Nothing… Lipstick, a little blood." Holy shit--why had I even bothered with Lynch's Wild at Heart when this guy had summed up all of its cool menace, style, and mystery with two ink drawings?
15 years later, Pettibon's work has retained all of its noir ambiguity. While mining a distinctly personal vision of Americana that includes Charles Manson, Gumby, locomotives, Henry James, shortstops, and surfers as recurrent characters, Pettibon evades simple interpretation without ever falling into self-indulgence.
Pettibon has always downplayed his connection to the punk rock scene (his brother, Greg Ginn, played guitar for Black Flag), yet he and Austrian artist Hans Weigand are performing with their band Crinkum Crankum Friday night at Holocene. And tonight (Thursday), the two of them give a slide show and lecture at Wieden + Kennedy that you'd be foolish to miss.