Critics’ Picks

Raymond Pettibon, No Title (Tombstones II . . .), 1993–97, pen, ink, and graphite on paper, 8 1/2 x 6".


Raymond Pettibon

Garage Museum of Contemporary Art
Krimsky Val, 9
June 7 - August 13

Raymond Pettibon has a habit of painting large murals for his solo shows, and this one is no exception. Organized by the same curators who put together the artist’s retrospective at the New Museum earlier this year, this exhibition opens with an untitled expanse featuring Pettibon’s emblematic surfers—stormy metaphors contending with waves of ontological hurdles—hovering between water and clouds. Rendered with the same color palette and scratch-like brushstrokes, both natural forms blend together, pointing to the malleability and openness of meaning in the artist’s pictorial language. Such avoidance of definitive statements is also apparent in the run-on sentence split into four by a surfer: “In doubt to deem himself a / Goyd [sic], or Beast / In doubt his Mind or Body / a Painter.”

Unencumbered by wall texts and marked by an unvaried, serial presentation of more than three hundred works, the show very much reads like a comic book, albeit one without a plot. Recurrent motifs in Pettibon’s oeuvre, such as flying saucers, detective investigations, promiscuous Gumbys, and suicide scenes, work against the mythology of the artist as insightful truth-bearer and position him as lost in fantasy, hardly bridging images and words. The emphatic force of his lines, whether they delineate a figure or a phrase, stem from a desire to convey the intensity of an unjust, irrational world without trying to mold it into an intelligible narrative. As he wrote on No Title (Tombstones II . . .), 1993–97: “They burden themselves too much with plots.”