press release

Sadie Coles HQ’s fourth exhibition with American artist Raymond Pettibon comprises an extensive series of recent drawings which manifest his art at its most eclectic. Densely hung across the walls, the drawings involve Pettibon’s characteristic integration of disparate imagery and fragments of handwritten text lifted and adapted from myriad sources. His style shifts fitfully within and between the works, ranging from graphic line drawing in charcoal (for instance, a rapidly crosshatched Bible) which invokes his early cartoons, to expressionistic and painterly forms executed in combinations of gouache, acrylic and crayon. Pettibon’s chaotic agglomerative method is equivalent to the ‘cut up’ technique adopted by Brion Gysin and William S. Burroughs in their book The Third Mind (1977). In an extension of this methodology, certain of Pettibon’s recent works literally employ collage. In No Title (Re-up periscope), pornographic excerpts from different drawings mass together into a bustling orgy, while a scribbled cartoon of a gun being discharged provides a comic superscript. Pettibon’s quotations, aphorisms and fragments of dialogue – free-floating and suspended from context – vary between bizarre interpolations and apposite subscripts. The result is a continual lurch in mood – from the sensationalist to the mundane to the absurdist to the poetically ambivalent. A blotted Rorschach design is given the wry tagline “Readers who have any tincture of psychology know how much is to be inferred from this”. In No Title (Be content at), John Ruskin’s instructions on drawing (“Be content at present if you find your hand gaining command over the curves”) accompany an image of a naked woman holding her breasts – perhaps a parodic affront to Ruskin’s supposed sexual reticence.

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Raymond Pettibon