Upon entering the New Museum, the lobby is adorned with large-scale ink drawings of baseball players and what looks like deranged sketchings of a hyperactive child. At the top right corner, scribbled with dejected wonder, someone painted
When stepping out of the elevator, Pettibon’s frustration with politicians over his lifetime is immediate, visceral, and biting. The fury of his pen produced works critical of everyone from Reagan to the current Cheeto-in-Chief, but Pettibon extends extra vitriol for George W. Bush and his invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. As controversial as this floor may seem, just to the left of the elevators are snarky interpretations of Batman and Superman with chaotic and cheeky captions.
In the ‘80s, Pettibon printed and distributed his zines for free to spread the word about his work. Through the prolific production of these zines, his signature style and vicious wit were refined, an evolution that can be tracked around the floors of this museum.
Though his handwriting is that of a child, his prose is as sharp as it is profound, critical yet full of awe. The exhibition makes viewers chuckle and think, and though his work may come off as unpolished to the untrained eye, Pettibon’s passion and point of view are clear, even if it may take a while to fully read and take in his work. Few artists’ work truly embody the adage “the pen is mightier than the sword” quite like Raymond Pettibon.
If planning to check out this extensive retrospective, be sure to block out plenty of time to decipher Pettibon’s clever writing as well as admire his signature ink drawings. The New Museum is open Wednesday to Sunday from 11am to 6pm with pay-what-you-wish admission on Thursday nights from 7pm to 9pm.