From his earliest years as an artist working in the ferment of Southern California’s vibrant punk scene, Raymond Pettibon has freighted his drawings with references to the uglier episodes in America’s history, and in particular to the darker corners of the counterculture. Pettibon explored the social and sexual practices that defined the 1960s, from the drug-induced utopianism of the hippie communes to American imperialism in Vietnam, from the radical political activism of the Weathermen to the cult of the Kennedy clan and the crimes of the Manson “Family.” In the 1980s, Pettibon focused on Ronald Reagan with great vehemence, mocking his “Great Communicator” moniker well beyond the duration of Reagan’s presidential term. Other recurrent subjects have included political figures such as Richard Nixon, J. Edgar Hoover and both Bush presidents, and historical events such as the Vietnam War and the civil rights movement. Following the events of September 11, 2001, Pettibon’s political explorations have gained in intensity, with numerous works on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the prisoner abuses at Abu Ghraib, President Obama and Osama bin Laden; he also made several drawings depicting flag-draped coffins (countering the government’s policy of banning from the press all images of soldier’s coffins). Accompanying this intensified political content has been a notable shift in style, with a closer, more vivid rendering of his subjects. Raymond Pettibon: Here’s Your Irony Back surveys these and other political themes throughout the artist’s work, from the mid-1970s to 2013.
Raymond Pettibon (born 1957) studied economics at UCLA, before joining his brother in the punk band Black Flag. He soon began to contribute artwork album covers, fliers and t-shirts, for the band and its label SST Records, and exhibited his work in group shows in galleries in the 1980s. Since the 1990s he has been the recipient of numerous major solo exhibitions.