Art of the Day: Raymond Pettibon, “No title (A look. A …)”, 2010 and Art of the Day Break

  March 28th, 2011

       (click to enlarge)

       Raymond Pettibon, No title (A look. A …), 2010, pen, ink, and gouache on paper

    First, just a note to readers that I’m taking a week’s break from Art of the Day to concentrate on another writing project.
    In the meantime, hope you love this extraordinary piece by an artist I’ve long admired, Raymond Pettibon. This is a fine example of his relatively recent incorporation of color into his process. The maroons, muds and bricks heighten the dark magic of what’s going on between the text and the visual. There’s so much character in the insect’s color: the jaunt upcurl of its right set of legs, the humanlike eye, the fiery & complicated maw. We are regarded with scorn, anger, supplication, confusion, curiosity, superciliousness.
     I think of the film District 9 & of course Mr. Gregor Samsa, howling inside his chitin, but also all the roaches we smash underfoot daily. I think of the universal OK we all feel we have to pinch out the lives of insects and vermin at will; I thin of the way we even use their existence as insults (“You insect,” “You worm,” “You rat”). Despite all evidence of human progress & tolerance & insight & enlightenment we are partly, at core, animals acting within pecking order, taking out daily frustrations and irritations and stresses on whatever smaller things we can, settling often on the tiniest things, bugs, because they’re the un-Disneyfiable, un-Hallmarkable Other, nothing like us at all and all the more dismissable (& threatening) for it.
     Sure we could be like the Jainists (Jainism: Ultrapacifist Indian religion originating sometime between the 9th & 6th centuries BCE) and try and filter our water vessels with screens to keep from swallowing invisible critters, or sweep walkways ahead of our steps with brooms to shoo them away. But this is fruitless — even if we don’t want to we squash the tiniest things, from mite to microflora, by the mere fact of our existence, through our simplest daily actions: the food & drink we consume, the cars we drive, showers we take, stairs we climb, streets we cross. Better to come to terms with honor & understanding & grace that a lived life is inseparable from other things dying and, having done that, try as hard as possible not to kill without provocation or necessity.
     The creature in Pettibon’s “No title” understands all of this and laughs at me for writing it. It’s sure of itself, not scared of me or my shoe. It knows its kind will survive our every diligent effort to exhaust & destroy our planet and render it uninhabitable. It senses every dark tiny dark green stain of guilt we feel & have ever felt upon killing for no reason other than unnameable fear some centipede, beetle, roach, spider. It senses these soul-stains with its antennae. It’s ready.
 Please check out more of Pettibon’s work at

All writing © copyright C. Way / 2011

[posted by C Way at 7:10 PM]


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