Human depravity, sexualized violence, macabre desires come to life in two dimensions; this is the world artist Raymond Pettibon renders in pen and ink. It is a world mirrored sonically by the band he formerly played with, Black Flag, and the label where he acted as visual curator, SST, for much of the late ‘70s and ‘80s.
Most familiar with the hardcore punk scene of this time will remember Pettibon’s comic book influenced drawings.They adorned telephone poles, streetlights and album covers.
While his artwork has since become iconic and synonymous with this period in punk music, few know the artist responsible. Fewer still know he was the original bassist for Black Flag; a band started by his older brother, guitarist/songwriter and SST label founder, Greg Ginn.Pettibon was responsible for suggesting the name Black Flag reasoning, "If a white flag means surrender, a black flag represents anarchy." He also created the four black bar logo that served as the band’s emblem.
His art conjures R. Crumb and Ralph Steadman, two other artists whose illustrative approach are often attached to a literary narrative. Crumb and Steadman partnered with writers Charles Bukowski and Hunter S. Thompson respectively, while Pettibon borrows text and verse from a variety of sources, including those of his own creation. He cities Henry James, Ruskin, and Mickey Spillane asliterary inspirations, whose prose, often inspire and accompany his drawings. The noir themes and world the characters in his art inhabit dovetails perfectly with the grit and naked aggression associated with hardcore. His art helped to inform the gutter poetry and paranoia inherent in the genre.
His art seems particularly timely today and worthy of exploring. On a recent trip to New York City, a visit to the Chelsea art galleries revealed several artists working in Pettibon’s graphic cartoon style.