zingmagazine10 autumn 1999







about zing


alexis vaillant
love for sale
lutwidge finch a novel: chapter 5
evil camouflage



Raymond Pettibon, untitled (you each have), ink on paper

Bruce Sterling, in his introduction to William Gibson's Burning Chrome, comments, Gibson is a devotee of what J.G. Ballard has perceptively called invisible literature: that permeating flow of scientific reports, government documents, and specialized advertising that shapes our culture below the level of recognition. Gibson uses the language of the throwaway as a checkpoint in which to embroil the notion of his greater neon future in much the same way that the Pop artists of the '60s used the images to notify their present. Raymond Pettibon, like Gibson and the Pop masters, makes use of a similar vein which too is at the heart of the peripheral.

Instead of choosing language over image or vice versa, Pettibon combines them in what becomes pen and ink creations that are part drawing, part novel. Each can't help but bring to my mind an aging film director referring to a storyboard he has not drawn. What develops this tableau is the way Pettibon toys with instant nostalgia and cultural icons. He pairs the rough depiction of pulp images, ie the face of Joan Crawford, muscle cars, Gumby, etc., with the fragmented banter of a well-read cynic. Pettibon chooses not to employ the language of the commonplace as Gibson does, but the complex referentiality of the whole of Western literature. The construction of his images and language at once frays and emulates the boundaries of how we both read and record the present. In a more explanatory drawing a half naked '50s-esque bombshell lies beneath a tanning light. Pettibon in any open space he has allowed himself, scrawls a narrative that could be his own or then again perhaps it is just the artist as character . . .

That is the purpose of each of these tales I tell: to let the model catch up on her tan (we use the lamp even here) while you the reader (I have made you the art reader), catch up on your reading.

And if these tales produce a tan it comes from the gradual abundance of testimony given in each story.

As to the tome or temper of the tan, ask the artist when? The reader's time is to move on.

How does it look? Is it finished then? Am I done yet?

And who are you looking at?

You see she isn't done.

Or should we pick up the story in the hereafter?

Let's move on.

Move on we do, sometimes to the next drawing, sometimes out into the street; either way we tangle ourselves more tightly into the tantalizingly exasperating web of Raymond Pettibon.


Laurel Broughton

New York, New York