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November 2008, Lari Pittman @ Gladstone Gallery

 

Lari Pittman, Untitled #2, 2008
Cel-vinyl, acrylic and lacquer spray over gessoed canvas over wood panel;
102 x 88 inches (259.1 x 223.5cm), courtesy Gladstone Gallery, LA
 
Lari Pittman
Gladstone Gallery
Through November 30th 
 
LA based artist, Lari Pittman, presents exuberant large-scale paintings in his third show at the Gladstone Gallery. His new body of work is a compelling twist on the tradition of vanitas paintings, 17th century Northern European symbolic still-lives that explore (among other things) man’s mortality and the fleeting impermanence of life’s pleasures. Unlike his Dutch and Flemish brethren, however, there is little room for somberness in Pittman’s paintings. The implied morality in Pittman’s work goes over like a firecracker rather than a lead balloon. On first glance, the paintings are garish. Like a design you would see on a suburban craft fair patron’s t-shirt. The colors are jolting and the iconography is mystifying. Pittman’s densely layered paintings borrow heavily from Pop (think James Rosenquist), tribal art (batik and Thai shadow puppets seem to be an inspiration), and graffiti art. Nonetheless, a bizarre unity begins to coalesce after a few moments with his work. In Untitled #14 a humanoid rabbit-type figure scales a pyramid festooned with delicately hatched patterns towards a shimmering star. A swollen rain/tear drop hangs delicately by a thread from the top of the painting. Bulbous fruits, and I use the word fruit lightly, are interspersed throughout the bottom of the composition, while intestinal looking piping twists throughout the image. The end result is a highly symbolic illustrative style with a Rube Goldbergian quirkiness. Untitled #7 shares some of the iconography of Untitled #2. Translucent layers of highly detailed patterns are painted atop each other. The shadow figures and dripping water remain, yet urns and fried eggs are added to the mix.  

In Pittman’s hands, the anxious uncertainty of the vanitas painting is retooled into a celebration of life’s impermanence chock full of stylistic and multi-cultural references. The delicacy with which he paints his bubbles and urns are a paean to life’s possibilities rather than a portent of its brevity.
 

 Lari Pittman, Untitled #7, 2008
Cel-vinyl, acrylic and lacquer spray over gessoed canvas over wood panel;
102 x 88 inches (259.1 x 223.5cm), courtesy Gladstone Gallery, LA

 

Lari, Pittman, Untitled #14, 2008
Cel-vinyl, acrylic and lacquer spray over gessoed canvas over wood panel;
52 x 40 inches (132.1 x 101.6 cm), courtesy Gladstone Gallery, LA

Jesi Khadivi in LA


Jesi Khadivi is a writer and curator living in Los Angeles. She writes for Venus Zine and the Brooklyn Rail among other publications. She recently completed research on the definitive biography of Gram Parsons and is currently working on her first book.  gramparsonsinterviews@gmail.com

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