Raymond Pettibon is one of the few visual artists to have achieved almost legendary status in the punk-rock and underground music scene of the American West Coast. Born Raymond Ginn and brother to guitarist/songwriter and impresario Greg Ginn, Pettibon has substantially contributed towards shifting popular genres (such as comics) or formats (fanzine or fly-poster style) from subculture to the realm of art.
The first visual reference that comes to mind when approaching Pettibon’s art is the comic book-like work of Roy Lichtenstein. The similarity is only superficial: Pettibon’s art is much darker, more cryptic and harder to decipher than Lichtenstein’s. Besides, unlike the latter’s super-flat mechanised or de-humanised imagery, Pettibon adds gestural strength and anarchic power to the style of comics and introduces a very personal system for cross-referencing quotations, images and his own texts. His codex is much more complex to unpack and less immediate to access.
Arguably, Pettibon’s work is like a form of Pop art that has embraced the wild side – punk aesthetics and an angrier social critique. While a distinct political undercurrent is noticeable in his art, to assume that it addresses personal stances would be misleading. As he says: ‘It’s a mistake to assume about any of my work that it’s my own voice. Because that would be the most simple-minded ineffective art that you can make.’ Pettibon’s work is satirical but he carefully avoids making fun at somebody’s expense ‘for the sake of a cheap laugh’.*
Since the 1990s Raymond Pettibon has challenged and expanded the notion of collage by creating immersive installations that combine works on paper, wall-drawings, prints and other materials. A mixed-media environment, which incorporates the animation entitled Sunday Night and Saturday Morning (2005), is his contribution to Touched.
Pettibon’s intervention takes place in one of the most sensitive areas of the city. Located by a cluster of nightlife and music venues, the building that Pettibon temporarily occupies is vacant, dilapidated and sprayed with graffiti and tags. Without erasing these pre-existing traces, in fact by using the same visual strategies and unauthorised street style, the artist attempts both to bring this site to life and life to art.
*Both quotations are from an interview with the artist which can be found at www.pbs.org/art21/artists/pettibon/clip2.html
Source: Liverpool Biennial International Festival of Contemporary Art, 2010 Guide