Survivor Series comprises seven new drawings by Raymond Pettibon and marks the third iteration in HOMEWORK, our series of online exhibitions featuring work from the homes and studios of artists during the isolation period.
Pettibon’s work addresses an enduring array of themes, extricating particular cues and ephemera from modern American popular culture, politics and history – ranging from literature, cartoons, sports, surf culture, Americana, societal and sexual norms and references drawn from art history. Existing at the intersection between painting, illustration and language, Pettibon’s drawings acclimate precise scenes and visual cues with handwritten texts (some original, some found) often instilling them with a multiplicity of meaning and poignant social critique.
It’s not as if I dream in images and my waking thoughts are in text, or as if my daydreams become my captions and illustrations. I don’t know if it’s good to separate the two too much actually. But yeah, one depends on the other. There’s always a latent or inferred image in my writing. And I can almost always assume if I do a drawing that it will eventually have text. Now, I can only take this so far, because it’s almost starting to sound like an apology for writing, as if it’s this impurity imposed on the visual image. In art, impurity is not a mortal sin. You have to navigate through it. I say that only because there’s not too many of my drawings that don’t have text. There are some, but not many. If I were doing cartoons it would be a lot easier.
Raymond Pettibon in conversation with John O’Connor, The Believer, 2005
No Title (Well, that’s my...)
ink, acrylic, crayon, and collage on paper
104.1 × 72.4 cm
41 × 28½ in
No Title (The thinker my...)
ink, charcoal, and graphite on paper
76.2 × 57.2 cm
30 × 22½ in
No Title (Can't geyt in...)
acrylic, ink, watercolour, charcoal, and graphite on paper
66.04 × 101.6 cm
26 × 40 in
The symbiotic tension between image and text is characteristic of Pettibon’s practice. His drawings are populated by quotations, aphorisms and poetic fragments of dialogue that act to deepen and refract the sensibility of the image, often due to the obtuseness of their connection. In No Title (Well, that’s my…), politely articulated remarks are offset against the intensity of the collaged pornographic scenes formed in rapid brush strokes of fleshy pink and black, energised by vigorous spatters of ink. In another, No Title (I luuv veretrebates.), the import of the text carries possible social inflections, while the abstraction of the composition resists narrative resolution. The particularity with which these free-floating, seemingly ambivalent, statements interact with the imagery emphasises the potency at play between language and image in the construction of narrative and the potential for humour, satire and revelation that is created by these unlikely couplings.
All I am really asking is for you to look at Gumby with the same kind of respect that you would if it was some historical figure or Greek statue.
In conversation with Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, 2008 (from ‘Raymond Pettibon: After Laughter’, Raymond Pettibon: Political Works 1975–2013 (Ostfildern: Hatje Kantz Verlag, 2013), pp.7–45)