by carl wilson

Vavoom! Ray Pettibon

In passing, however, I must say one thing that has pressed upon me lately: "Choo-Choo!" (1999).

I've just caught up (tardily, I know) with Michael Kimmelman's scorcher of a profile from Sunday's Times Magazine of Los Angeles artist Raymond Pettibon, best known to music geekery as the cover artist for early Black Flag, for Sonic Youth's Goo, etc. - and brother of Black Flag & SST Recs founder Greg Ginn. The mysterious outline traced of their family, especially their father, is fascinating. Apparently Ginn and Pettibon, once very close, don't see one another anymore - Kimmelman speculates that Ginn is jealous of his brother's success, but that seems the reading of an art-world person, from outside the context where Ginn is still a big name at least in a historical way. I've always had the sense that Ginn's withdrawal from view had more to do with SST's messy final years than anything else. (Though he did step briefly from the shadows for the Black Flag reunion two years ago.) Kimmelman's armchair-shrink treatment of Ginn is typical of his condescending treatment of music people thru the piece, unfortunately. Despite the fact that Pettibon's reputation was established directly through the postpunk subbacultcha, MK - and another MK he interviews, artist Mike Kelley - presumes that Pettibon's fans there didn't actually understand RP's work: "The punk audience liked his art because it was illustrational and there were jokes about hippie culture and film noir," says Kelley. "But what I liked about it was that it had this very knowing, winking position vis-à-vis hippie and punk culture." Because a "knowing, winking position" is so very different than "jokes"? Oh, because all non-professional-artists are uninformed, unreflective idiots. Right. Disappointing coming from Kelley, tho hardy unexpected from the Times. But the piece is worth your attention anyhow.

The Writ | Posted by zoilus on Wednesday, October 12 at 12:43 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (9)



Posted by Bane on November 3, 2005 3:25 PM



might want to catch the article NYTMag 10/9/05 by
Michael Kimmelman.

Posted by bikj on October 22, 2005 11:10 AM



Thanks for mentioning this lurid profile. Another Toronto-centric aside -- there's a surfy wall work by Pettibon up at the AGO now as part of their Swing Space series.

Posted by Kathleen on October 13, 2005 3:28 PM



Ah but think of Kelly’s statement as describing the context of 1979-1982 cheap sociology and Decline of the Western Civilization et al and his statement bears some truth of how Pettibon’s work was “allowed” within the punk milieu because of those superficially similar elements (neo noir, hippy hating) but what was really happening within the work--what you described-- was something the art world is only catching up to in the last few years. Maybe what Kelly was trying to get across was that punk then (and now, especially our horrendous Kinsella-now) was a limited vernacular.

Yes, it is the lime green one but I also really recommend the Raymond Pettibon Reader, a collection of reprints of his source material.

While we’re gushing… for Toronto readers, I believe Suspect Video on Bloor has the early Pettibon videos. Exactly as described plus you get to see Mike Watt act!

Posted by Brian on October 13, 2005 2:45 PM



No kidding, Brian - is the one you have the big lime-popsicle-green collection? I've got that one. But maybe it's another one you have.

I find it really hard to imagine how anybody could think Pettibon is in any way pretending to social realism, which is why I didn't reprint Kelley's Hugo/Magritte contrast. The text in his drawings - which is successful in a way almost no one else's use of writing visual art has been - seems to preclude anything but a dream-logic reading of his occluded narratives. It seems to me Kelley's congratulating himself way too smugly for getting it, since all he's talking about is the obvious structure of the stuff.

Posted by zoilus on October 13, 2005 1:50 PM



Kelly concludes his assessment with, “It struck me as Magrittean while pretending to be Victor Hugo” which is much more specific (Black Flag’s and Pettibon’s piss-taking on punk’s lame social realism) than his confusion between a knowing wink and a joke.

Actually, Pettibon’s work is probably too smart for all of us. I’ll lend you the omnibus of his chapbooks that I have. Staggering genius.

Posted by Brian on October 13, 2005 10:37 AM



Thanks for pointing me to this article. I can't say I'm particularly deep into Pettibone (aside from the album covers), but I did see Black Flag a few times back in the day. Indeed, I met Greg Ginn and Rollins briefly after a show in 1985 in Ann Arbor. A friend of a friend was interviewing them for Creem Magazine and somehow I ended up back there with them.

I think the interviewer was a guy getting a Ph.D. in American Studies at Michigan. There were definitely big words being thrown about and probing high conceptual questions. Ginn was almost mute in the face of this and seemed far from a genius to me (shows how little I knew back then--I wasn't familiar with introvert coping strategies). Rollins was a bit more talkative if not much more articulate.

Notwithstanding all that, in retrospect, from a cultural institution building standpoint, Black Flag may just be the most important band in the history of post 1977 American indie rock (even if there music really only has limited personal appeal to me). They pretty much created the entire touring and indie production template that people still use today. That's just an amazing legacy.

So it was kind of interesting to get a little more of a picture of the Ginn family, and also to find that not one but two brothers are considered culturally important. Kind of connects back to some of the stuff from Henry Rollins' "Get in the Van" about all the mind games between the guys in BF, and what an intense uncompromising dude Greg Ginn was. Seems to me that Black Flag maybe rehearsed in that same house to begin with. But maybe I'm getting it confused with the Minutemen.

Anyway, at least for me it also underscores what freaks the people often are who really go out in the woods and start something cool.

It's also interesting to connect this stuff up with the Skateboard cultural that was coming into its own in this period and chronicled in Stacey Peralta's "Dogtown and Z Boys."

If we were to look at cultural threads that mostly got started in the 1970s and seem to have a significant stamp on today's mainstream pop culture, computers(and more explicitly computer games), Punk Rock, and Skateboarding, would have to be considered 3 very enduring legacies of that period.


Posted by J-Lon on October 13, 2005 4:53 AM



Yeah, for def. I haven't yet seen Tim Irwin's We Jam Econo, the Minutemen documentary, but I understand that Pettibon gives a sitdown therein.

Posted by zo' on October 12, 2005 2:21 PM



What Makes a Man Start Fires...I know Goo and Black Flag are the contributions of record, but this geek would like to draw Brother Raymond's incredible contributions to the Minutemen, all things Mike Watt and all that "jazz" found on Ecstatic Peace, SST and others..."...Ray says, hey what's up here a second..." is the line in the Firehose song from Ragin' Full On.... Nice work on the the cute Beatle Carl, you da man!!!

Posted by Phil on October 12, 2005 1:23 PM




Zoilus by Carl Wilson