Lari Pittman: Living Allegories
The upcoming February 23, 2014 Modern Art & Design Auction features Untitled (2000), a large canvas by Los Angeles painter Lari Pittman.
Pittman (b. 1952) paints fantastical scenarios that do not necessarily exist in a place or time. The artist instead melds allegorical symbols with representational forms to illustrate his personal experiences and beliefs. Born in Southern California to a Catholic Colombian mother and a Protestant American father, Pittman spent his childhood in Colombia before returning to Los Angeles in 1963. After studying at UCLA, and later, CalArts amongst other artists including David Salle and Eric Fischl, Pittman made frequent visits to the small Mexican town San Miguel de Allende. It was there that Pittman first noticed retablos, colorful devotional paintings of saints and martyrs bedecked with busy ornamentation, which served as a major influence for his works to come. After a near-fatal burglary incident in his home in 1985, Pittman began to include imagery in his work that dealt with themes focused on death, avarice, and fate.
Untitled (2000), Lari Pittman
In Untitled (Lot 47) Pittman incorporates many of his signature motifs: Victorian-inspired silhouettes adorned with vibrant symbols set before a labyrinthine background. The artist has depicted himself as a young man, the collar on his blouse painted with black, illegible block letters. An ochre-yellow shape like that of a gemstone sits on his head, while his cheek radiates a mandala-esque form (which is also shared by the other male silhouette). Between them, an explosion of red arrows points in every direction.
Pittman presents the viewer with a personalized deck of tarot cards. Specifically, the card (painting) illustrates his distinctive representation of the wheel of fortune playing card. The six-spoked ring of red arrows continually spins, with rays of chance, good luck, or misfortune slung in all directions. The arrows may be suggestive of a possible relationship between Pittman and the other male; however, the symbolism of the wheel of fortune does not guarantee any certain outcome. It is this topsy-turvy, hit-or-miss notion that Pittman represents within the chaos of allegorical forms and representational figures within this work.
Lari Pittman has had major exhibitions at museums including the Museum of Contemporary Art St. Louis, the Hammer, and the Corcoran Gallery of Art. His works can be found in the permanent collections of MoMA, the Whitney, and LACMA.
Acrylic, alkyd, and aerosol on two paper panels
Retains Regen Projects label verso
Image/sheet: 30.5″ x 47.5″; Frame: 31.5″ x 48.5″
Provenance: Regen Projects, Los Angeles, California;
Private Collection, Los Angeles, California (acquired directly from the above, 2001)
Estimate: $8,000 – $12,000