Raymond Pettibon is an American painter and cartoonist known for his comic-like drawings with disturbing, ironic or ambiguous text. Pettibon’s subject matter is sometimes violent and anti-authoritarian. His works primarily with India ink on paper and many of his early drawings are black and white, although he sometimes introduces color through the use of pencil, watercolor, collage, gouache or acrylic paint.
Born in Tucson, AZ, in 1957 as Raymond Ginn, he changed his name to Pettibon after his father gave him the nickname “petit bon,” which translates to good little one. The artist earned a degree in economics and worked as a high school math teacher briefly before returning to college. He graduated with a BFA from UCLA in 1977.
Pettibon’s drawings encompass the spectrum of American culture from the deviances of marginal youth-culture to art, literature, sports, religion, politics, and sexuality. Motives include Charles Manson, surfers, baseball players, vixens, homicidal teenage punks, Elvis Presley, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, and the cartoon figure Gumby. Pettibon’s works on paper combine the drawn image and text, both borrowed passages from literature and text written by Pettibon himself. Some images appear alone, but most often they are paired with handwritten snippets of text, either the artist’s own, or quotations from Henry James, John Ruskin, Christopher Marlowe, William Faulkner, James Joyce, and others.
Pettibon has stated that his interest in this technique is a result of the influence of artists such as William Blake and Goya, and the style of political editorial cartoons. His drawings come out by the hundreds. He started to publish them as limited-edition photocopied booklets in 1978. These booklets, which he continues to produce as “Superflux Pubs,” are considered “the sum of his ideas and aesthetics”. Pettibon started working in collage in the mid-80s with simple newsprint elements collaged onto black and white images. In his new works, the artist again uses the means of collage.
During the early days of punk music, the late 1970s and early 1980s, Pettibon produced artwork on fliers, promotional posters, stickers, and album covers. His most notable work from this period was for his brother”s band, Black Flag. He also worked with other bands, including the Dead Kennedys, the Ramones, Meat Puppets, and the Minutemen. Pettibon’s work from this period was mainly done with India ink on paper in black-and-white, although he would add color using acrylic or watercolor paints or colored pencils.
He began exhibiting his work in the 1980s. In 1991, the artist won the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award in Painting, Sculpture, Print-making, Photography, and Craft Media. He released an anthology of his work, Raymond Pettibon: A Reader, in 1998. Pettibon won the Wolfgang Hahn Prize from the Ludwig Museum in Cologne, Germany, in 2001. In 2004, the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York gave him the Bucksbaum Award. In 2010, Pettibon won the Oskar Kokoschka Prize in Vienna, Austria.
The artist has been a part of group exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, CA, in 1992, the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York in 2004, and the Museum of Fine Arts in Gent, Belgium, in 2010. He has also had many solo exhibitions, including shows at the Galleria Massimo de Carlo in Milan, Italy, in 1995, at the Museum Ludwig in Cologne, Germany, in 2001, and at Contemporary Fine Arts in Berlin, Germany, in 2011. Pettibon has had work included in the collections of many museums, including at the Art Institute of Chicago in Chicago, IL, at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, Israel, and at the the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In 2011, he had an exhibition at Regen Projects in Los Angeles, CA, titled Desire in Pursuyt of the Whole, in which many of his untitled works were shown.
Raymond Pettibon currently lives and works in Venice Beach, CA.