PRINT January 2020


Lari Pittman, Plymouth Rock, 1985, oil and acrylic on wood, 80 × 82".

EVERY AMERICAN surely knows that Plymouth Rock marks the site where the Mayflower landed in 1620 before the Pilgrims it held founded the Plymouth Colony. It is likely that fewer Americans know that this historically significant rock was not identified as such until 1741, or that in 1774 the rock broke in half during an attempt to move it. Plymouth Rock is an allegory, one as American as apple pie and Manifest Destiny. (“Allegory,” Craig Owens once observed, “is consistently attracted to the fragmentary, the imperfect, the incomplete.”) Plymouth Rock is also the title of a 1985 painting by Lari Pittman, and, like the ruinous, mythologized object with which it shares a name, it, too, is an allegory.

Lari Pittman, The New Republic, 1985, oil and acrylic on wood, 80 × 82".

Pittman’s Plymouth Rock intimates landscape, but it’s also a field of signs. The date—CA. 1620—rendered across the painting’s front in a scraggly, spermatic script, is large and

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