October 11, 2015


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Lot 295: Richard Pettibone

Lot 295: Richard Pettibone

Andy Warhol,

Oil and rubber stamp on canvas in artist's frame
Signed and dated "RICHARD PETTIBONE 1965" lower right; inscribed "#28" verso
Canvas: 8" x 6"; Frame: 8.375" x 6.375"
Provenance: Private Collection, Los Angeles, California (acquired directly from the artist)
Estimate: $20,000 - $25,000
Price Realized: $36,250
Inventory Id: 20294

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In a career that spans more than 50 years, Richard Pettibone (b. 1938) has created one of the most compelling and intriguing bodies of work in contemporary American art. A pioneer of appropriation–the reusing, adaptation, or reproduction of existing images and forms–Pettibone began in the early 1960s to paint miniature copies of modernist masterworks by artists such as Andy Warhol, Marcel Duchamp, Frank Stella, Roy Lichtenstein, and Jasper Johns. His canvases are supported by painstakingly crafted stretchers and frames. Pettibone has an acuity for smallness and detail, a talent he developed as a boyhood model train enthusiast. His engaging work prompts both celebration and controversy, and raises questions about the nature of originality, and the relationship between art and the viewer. "Mr. Pettibone is a connoisseur and careful explorer of the chief wellspring of art-making: the simple love of art," Roberta Smith, chief art critic for The New York Times, wrote in a review in 2005. " [He] has made art that he can call his own. Its emotional wisdom for the artistically inclined is bracingly clear: love art, love yourself, do what you have to do and what only you can do. Utter honesty is the only path to originality." Pettibone's work is in the permanent collections of numerous institutions including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.

In August 2015 Los Angeles Modern Auctions spoke with the New York-based artist about thoughts and influences that informed the works of art on offer in this sale.

Los Angeles Modern Auctions: This sale includes one of your versions, in oil, of Pepper Pot, from Andy Warhol's Campbell's Soup Cans series. That was the very first Warhol image you appropriated, back in 1964. Why did you choose that one?

Richard Pettibone: Pepper Pot was the canvas used for the poster for the first ever show of the Campbell's Soup Cans in 1962 at the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles. I'm not sure if it was Andy or [gallery owner] Irving Blum who chose that one for the poster, though I suspect it was Irving. That show had a tremendous impact on me. And I was glad to see that, in the current show of the Campbell's Soup Cans at the Museum of Modern Art– [Andy Warhol: Campbell's Soup Cans and Other Works, 1953–1967, April 25–October 18, 2015]–they are presenting the paintings lined up one-by-one against the wall, as they were at Ferus. Ever since, the thirty-two soup flavors have been shown as a grid.

LAMA: What was Warhol like?

RP: He was friendly and supportive. He was the first person in New York that I showed the paintings to. He thought they were funny. He told me to go to his gallery and see [art dealer] Leo Castelli, who eventually showed my work, too. I saw Andy maybe three or four times.

LAMA: Tell us about the "Warhol" called Saturday Disaster (right hand panel).

RP: A couple of years after he started the Death and Disaster series, Andy started adding a second, blank panel to the pictures, making them diptychs. When asked why he did it, Andy said: "To make them more expensive. "Well, one day I was at the gallery and I saw a blank canvas from Saturday Disaster in the back room. Someone had bought just the left hand panel, and left the other behind. So this is an homage to that orphaned right hand panel.

LAMA: Marcel Duchamp is also one of your favorite artists.

RP: I only copy what I love. When I first saw his work I thought Duchamp was far out. The library at the Otis College of Art and Design in L.A. had a copy of Robert Lebel's great Duchamp monograph–incidentally, I found my copy of the book in the bargain basement at Macy's, of all places–and, of course, I went to the incredible retrospective that [curator and Ferus Gallery co-founder] Walter Hopps organized at the Pasadena Art Museum [now the Norton Simon Museum] in 1963. I still think Duchamp is far out. I'm working on a series of paintings based on his urinal [Fountain, Duchamp's famous "ready-made" sculpture of 1917 that consists of a porcelain urinal tipped on its end and signed "R. Mutt" ]. I think of the urinal as a kind of self-portrait. My own bodily plumbing and my eyesight are a concern these days. Duchamp's urinal was first published in the Dadaist magazine The Blind Man, in a photo by Alfred Stieglitz. [Laughs.]

LAMA: Your work defies easy categorization, though that never stops people from trying.

RP: Take the "Frank Stella" paintings [Union and Moultonboro] in the auction. When I paint a Frank Stella abstract people ask, "So does that make you an abstractionist?" No! These are realist paintings of abstract art. I am probably more of a realist than most realists. That said, the colors in these Frank Stellas are not accurate to the originals. But these paintings are my own, after all.