Nog maar net in 2019 had hij een grote retrospesctieve tentoonstelling ‘Declaration of Independence’ of op dit ogenblik loopt alweer een art show in de Lehmann Maupin gallerie NY met de sprekende zinspeling: ‘Found Burried’ (nog tot 28 augustus 2020)
Zijn boeiend werk blijft intrigeren.
“Lari Pittman is the most subversive and shocking artist working today. Instead of screaming headlines, he uses his exceptional skill as a painter of beauty. Decorative patterns and motifs camouflage his serious intent. He employs beauty to lure us into his complex stories about history, sexuality, the fragility of the human body and mysteries of the afterlife.” (Dorhojowska-Philp)
En mooier kan ik het niet samenvatten, dus probeer ik met deze bijdrage je nieuwsgierig te maken naar zijn werk. Wandel even mee rond in ‘Found Buried’ twee minuutjes om een idee te hebben van sfeer en afmetingen.
During the mid-1970s, Pittman (°1952) attended California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, California, completing a BFA and an MFA. The institute’s strong feminist arts program challenged the devaluation of art forms traditionally associated with craft, and it was his engagement with this program that inspired Pittman’s interest in undermining aesthetic hierarchies and embracing the decorative arts. Pittman’s strong affinity for the decorative can be seen throughout his many bodies of work and it has contributed to his singular visual style. While Pittman’s early works were informed by the socio-political struggle resulting from the AIDS epidemic, racial discord, and LGBTQ+ civil rights struggles that defined the last two decades of the 20th century, his later paintings evince more subtle political gestures through a focus on interior spaces, including domestic and psychological subjects.
Decades before a non-binary understanding of gender came into vogue, Pittman was painting trans-gendered owls and female surrogates that upturned gender binaries and advanced the fluidity of gender we understand today. Pittman drew from his bi-cultural background and bilingual understanding to explore further complexities in hybrid identity by creating multiple narratives that could be read in different directions, from the top to the bottom or from the left to the right, simultaneously. Pittman created further ambiguity by combining Latin American surrealism based on magical realism which is both magic and real. Pittman’s exploration of the aesthetics of ambiguous simultaneity foreshadows the millennial generation’s interest in visual ambiguity in the digital era, allowing younger painters like Christina Quarles to understand and embrace racial and sexual identity as not just one thing but multiple things all at once. (Lita Berrie 2019)
In the homophobic early nineties, women’s rights and bodies were also under patriarchal attack, and Pittman series at that time, A Decorated Chronology of Insistence and Resignation, is a shout back with imperative phrases like “Cum n’Get it,” “Love-Sex,” “Life” and “Love!” These paintings explore ecstasy and pain during the AIDs epidemic with dark humor, juxtaposing cries like “SOS” and “RIP” with Visa and Mastercard logos and anal imagery. Untitled #9 is a phantasmagoria of transgendered bodies and dismembered body parts, which uses the letters “S.F.O.Y.S” from the phrases “Save our Souls” and “Fuck You.” (ibidem)
Close looking is rewarded. Pittman’s technique is meticulous. There are elements reminiscent of spin-art, but with more sophistication and a sense of nostalgic joy and pleasure. His dry brushwork has a lightness and transparency, a smooth elasticity. Pittman employs a bold, almost florid colour palette that comfortably straddles his childhood steeped in the magical realism of Colombia and his later years in the neo-plastic jungle of Los Angeles. Vibrant magentas and lapis hues comingle with autumnal oranges and reds replete with a melding of delicate Rococo floral motifs, decorative scrolling, and Baroque detailing. Like ornate wallpaper, it injects a sense of decorum into near-chaos. Disparate images— eggs, disembodied human-like anatomical forms, silhouettes, cacti, credit card logos, urban structures, and language—waft through the visual field. Pittman elaborates, “I think that when you stand in front of the paintings, you’re aware of an artificially accelerated aesthetic experience; more than anything you know it has been constructed and assembled.” (Robyn Tisman, Arteviste)
‘We always talk about sociocultural context as creating the narrative around the work, but it’s also language. An old friend of mine, Paolo Colombo, a curator in Europe, pointed out that some of the misunderstanding of the work is because a lot of it comes out of Spanish and not exclusively out of English. I’m fluent in Spanish. That’s the language I spoke with my mother (and with my father, English). In Spanish, there’s a much broader range for articulating temporalities. You use the subjunctive more, the pluperfect, the past subjunctive, the future subjunctive, the future conditional. We don’t do that as much in English. Capitalism really enforces a structure of dividing time into discrete parts—eight hours, eight hours, eight hours. I’m interested in different temporalities in the work. Also, in Spanish and in a lot of Romance languages, you can use exaggeration and hyperbole in daily conversation and it’s not seen as suspect.’
‘I have to identify what I call the architecture of the event—some sort of overarching containment of the event, of the ephemera, of the volatility or the operatic nature of the painting—its stage. I’m in trouble with a painting if I don’t do that in the first ten percent, and I know it. But if I do that, it sets in motion a series of calls and responses. I’ve entered into a contractual agreement with the work, but I’m not illustrating the contract. The contract is a necessary distancing device to keep the work rigorous.’
‘I think a large part of the way the work looks and behaves—its multiple temporalities, its polymorphousness—comes from applying a philosophical lens. There’s a certain point where the sociocultural gets bumped up into something a bit better, which is philosophy. But we’re so addicted to the sociocultural lens, and the forensics of the personal narrative. It’s an easy way out. That line of thought is always insisting on the verification of the work and its topical usefulness, its societal usefulness. To ask a human being “are you useful?” is really insulting.’
‘If there’s one thing that troubled me when I was really young, it was that of all the practices, painting is the one where the viewer invests heavily in the essentialization of the relationship between the maker of the object and the object made. That really bugged me. I wanted a physical object to have its own consciousness, somehow, or for it to be a little more collaborative. I try to set up very quickly at the beginning of the making of a painting some sort of inner logic, so that it’s that inner logic that makes the painting and completes it, not necessarily me. It’s that disassociation which also allows me not to always like my work. Also, the work is not my personal aesthetic, and never has been, in the same way that a novelist can create the most heinous creature without being a heinous person. But there’s something about painting that really facilitates and exacerbates that real essentialization.’
‘Actually, when I speak about my work I use the word jouissance a lot. Jouissance — it’s a joy, but a joy of life, of being full of life, full of joy. These complex emotions remind me of my favorite word of all: saudade. It’s Portuguese, and used a lot in Brazil. What’s amazing about the word saudade is that it encapsulates everything about melancholia, jouissance, the bittersweet, but it’s a weird one — saudade is about the future possibility of something happening, something that maybe will be good, and that will maybe make you happy, and you’re already getting sad about it, because you know it’s going to end. It’s about the simultaneous temporalities of emotions, and memories, and states of being.
I don’t have a problem with sentimentality. I love that word. I grew up with my maternal family, my Colombian aunts, a matriarch. They taught me about sentimentality and the melodramatic and its cultivation and its indulgence. Through them I saw that these things are not degraded states of experience. But there is something in language that is sexist. Sentimentality and melodrama are seen as negative, because we’re looking at language through the prism of sexism and those are historically ways by which women’s emotive worlds are described.’
‘One of the beautiful things about a painting is its incredibly absorbent surface—“absorbent” in the sense that it absorbs the world around it at any given moment. In a funny way, I guess I have always been somewhat of a history painter but without necessarily being didactic. I’m interested in showing the history of the moment and all of its pathology as well as its wellness, and showing that one doesn’t trump the other; there’s a simultaneity of events, or a bittersweet nature of life where things fit side by side in complete contradiction, but they’re still part of the fabric of daily existence.’
‘At that time, AIDS was a shadow over our culture as well as the world. I was very anxious about how one proceeds with establishing oneself as a person with complete cultural centrality, given that a lot of the prevailing discussion was about pathology as relating, incorrectly, to a specific part of the population. How do I put forth an idea of a happy, productive, fully integrated life as a gay person while at the same time, culture is overlaying blame onto my endeavors? I think those issues still occur. How do people of color in the United States feel about trying to put forth their best and be prosperous.
I was always interested in dismantling the gender binary as well as the binary of sexuality. Now, it’s interesting that young kids look at the work and immediately apply the kind of polemics of queer culture or transgenderism or non-conforming gender identity. I love that the work can absorb and continues to absorb these newer cultural nuances. So I’m really happy about that. It makes me very happy. It means that the paintings are still alive.’
‘Although I’m not a religious person, I love how Western European religious painting is constructed to advance a tight narrative. I like the function of the predella in altarpieces where you have the main event, which would be an image of Christ or the Virgin Mary, at least in Catholicism. And then at the lower level, you would have the smaller sequence of paintings, which shed light on the mystery of the main image. The attachment of these framed drawings on top of the painting comes out of this idea of the religious convention of the altarpiece where you have a predella either below or next to the larger visual event.’
‘Found Burried’, ga naar: https://www.lehmannmaupin.com/exhibitions/lari-pittman
Natuurlijk is een afbeelding van deze kunstenaar best in de ruimte van een tentoonstelling of museum te genieten. Afbeeldingen op het net doen onrecht aan het werk. De overvloed van details en het raffinement van hun onderlinge verhoudingen krijgen op een foto te weinig adem. Kunstwerken hebben de ruimte nodig waarin ze functioneren. Ze dienen hier als referentiepunt, als indicatie van een opvatting en atmosfeer. Tik gewoon zijn naam in en laat je langs alle mogelijke foto’s naar een beter inzicht leiden. Waar mogelijk is een confrontatie met een kunstwerk in zijn ware gestalte de enige weg.