David Zwirner’s cavernous space on West 19th Street is currently hosting To Wit, an expansive exhibition of new works by Southern California-based artist, Raymond Pettibon. A wildly prolific artist and illustrator – for whom To Wit is his ninth exhibit at Zwirner – Pettibon is also famous for having designed flyers, album covers and the iconic four bar logo for LA Punk Rock legends, Black Flag. (Trivia: Pettibon’s birth name is actually Raymond Ginn, and Black Flag guitarist Greg Ginn is the artist’s older brother).
Pettibon’s work embraces a wide spectrum of American “high” and “low” culture, from the deviations of marginal youth to art history, literature, sports, religion, politics, and sexuality. Taking their points of departure in the Southern California punk-rock culture of the late 1970s and 1980s and the “do-it-yourself” aesthetic of album covers, comics, concert flyers, and fanzines that characterized the movement, his drawings have come to occupy their own genre of potent and dynamic artistic commentary.
To Wit presents a wide range of drawings and collages unified by their bold, vivid lines and striking compositions. Fragments from American society have been distilled into key images, which often incorporate texts of varying length, from one word to several paragraphs. The selection of texts, spanning a broad array of influences from popular media to Marcel Proust, William Faulkner, Henry James, Gustave Flaubert and the Bible, relate both rhythmically and narratively to the visual content of his drawings, although their relationship may not always be immediately apparent.
As the exhibition’s title, “to wit” introduces the works without an antecedent, as an interrupted thought followed by something spontaneous: to wit, this body of work. The words also convey Pettibon’s long-standing interest in the way language moves through its many registers: formal, literary, lyrical and spoken. It is also a dedication to Wit, the broad principle of humor that pervades this work. In keeping with Pettibon’s prolific practice, the works in this exhibition alternately address violence, humor, sex, evolution and sports.
In some drawings, the subject matter is easily recognizable: No Title (I wonder at…) shows the comic strip character Bazooka Joe, distinguished by his eye patch and baseball cap, blowing bubble gum.
You still have nearly a full month to see Raymond Pettibon’s To Wit, so get yourself over to West 19th Street while you can!