Lari Pittman

(b. 1952)

About The Artist

Over the course of his decades-long career, Lari Pittman (b. 1952) has developed a singular painting style of ambitious and complex compositions that burst with sexual innuendo, historical references, and humor. The use of signs and symbols drawn from multiple pictorial languages allows Pittman to cultivate a dynamic, transhistorical discourse on rebellion and decorum. Fusing advertisements, Surrealism, gestural abstraction, Victorian silhouettes, and folk art, Pittman engages with contrasting beliefs about ugliness and beauty, chaos and calm. His meticulously crafted works have become emblematic of a generation of Los Angeles artists who reexamined ornamentation during the 1980s, informing their political and personal iconography along the way.

Pittman attended California Institute of the Arts in the mid-1970s, where he encountered Judy Chicago and Miriam Shapiro's groundbreaking Feminist Art Program. Dedicated to actively undermining entrenched aesthetic hierarchies, the program's reconsideration and revaluation of decorative arts contributed strongly to Pittman's creative development. "One of my strongest memories from those years is of how patterning and color were so relentlessly gendered," Pittman recalled to critic Leah Ollman. His early work reflected the peak of the AIDS crisis and culture wars of the 1990s, articulated through chaotic combinations of patterns, shapes, and figurative elements. His selected objects — teapots, Russian easter eggs, and musical instruments, to name a few — coalesce into paintings commenting on life, death and concepts of time. With a strong focus on personal rebellion against puritanical dichotomies and their stigmatization of gay relationships and marriage, Pittman highlights the oft-explosive relationships between love and violence.

A distinguished Professor of Painting and Drawing at the UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture, Pittman has been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions including Lari Pittman: Declaration of Independence, January 2020 at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Lari Pittman: Mood Books, the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, San Marino, CA (2016); Lari Pittman, Le Consortium, Dijon, France (2013); A Decorated Chronology, Museum of Contemporary Art St. Louis, St. Louis, MO (2013); Lari Pittman, Villa Arson, Nice, France (2005); Lari Pittman, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA (1996).

Ollman, Leah. "Lari Pittman on Modernist Interiors, Spanish Metaphors, and Polymorphous Paintings." Art in America. October 1, 2019. Accessed November 11, 2020: https://www.artnews.com/art-in-america/interviews/lari-pittman-interview-modernist-interiors-spanish-metaphors-63657/

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