“When I see a train, I want to take it in my arms.” –Raymond Pettibon
Somewhere in Venice Beach, in a bizarre realm where fine art intersects with gritty punk rock, Raymond Pettibon lives and makes art. I first got into Pettibon when I noticed that the album art for a bunch of my favorite bands (Black Flag, Sonic Youth, the Minutemen…) had something in common, which turned out to be Pettibon. His confrontational, hyper-realistic drawings define the punk aesthetic, especially the early LA scene. Pettibon’s work reminds me of all sorts of half-memories of punk shows, violent dreams, and things friends did while on drugs. Looking at his art is a comic-book-like escape for me.
I love that his primary medium is drawing, and the fact that you can explore his art by examining an album cover, flipping through a zine, reading a concert flier, or even just admiring the masses of Black Flag tattoos out there. I mean, yeah, his work hangs in galleries too, but more art should be made this way- it’s so practical and experiential.
Some people live in Boise, Idaho. If you’re one of those people, you ought to head over to Boise State University’s Visual Arts Center to check out the exhibition Raymond Pettibon: The Punk Years, 1978-86, which runs from March 7th through the 28th. If you don’t live in Boise, his art is all over LA, and in museums around the country. Obvs you need to pre-order the shit out of this book, PETTIBON.
Fun fact: Pettibon has a tattoo of a swastika on his back. This unfortunately happened when he was in prison- his cellmate was a tattoo artist, and Pettibon asked him if he would tattoo his girlfriend on his back, using the one photo that he had of her in the joint. His cellmate agreed, but several hours later, Pettibon looked in the mirror, and to his horror, there was a large swastika. He seems to have a sense of humor about it now, saying it’s appropriate since that woman turned out to be “Hitler incarnate.”