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CalArts Alumnus Lari Pittman's work displayed at Regen Projects

November 14, 2013

by Hunter Drohojowska-Philp

Lari Pittman: From a Late Western Impaerium at Regen Projects

Considered one of the most talented painters to emerge in L.A., Lari Pittman's complicated pictures reflect his rigorous training at Cal Arts in the l970's when the priority was post-studio, post conceptual art. Pittman himself talked at the Hammer Museum last week and made the distinction that his medium isn't paint, it is painting. That is, he is concerned with the long history of painting as a platform for conveying an individual point of view, returning painting to its polemical status. That is abundantly clear in what he calls "flying carpet" paintings at Regen Projects. They are history paintings with all the polymorphous diversity of contemporary life.

There are three paintings hanging together in the biggest gallery, each is 30-feet-long and ten-feet-high. Each has a single dominant color: red,green or blue. The predominantly blue canvas titled "Flying Carpet with a Waning Moon over a Violent Nation" is dominated by five powerful lenses trained on a distant target, the moon as it fades from full to crescent in successive stages. The view is a little blurry so you have to concentrate your focus, as though really looking though the site of a rifle which, in fact, each lens happens to be. These graphically dark circles are interspersed with hanging nooses, one of which holds a letter in strange illegible text. The anachronistic background of this ominous content is a feathery pattern of blue with red swirls. Or are they wounds?

All of this work -- dozens of smaller paintings and works on paper -- was completed since last Easter. Significant because shortly before that time, Pittman underwent an emergency operation to repair an intestinal rupture that was the result of being shot by a burglar at his home back in 1985. The pain brought back memories of the original incident and no small amount of irritation at the inability of this country to pass reasonable gun control laws. Pittman's work is not autobiographical but it is personal. Throughout his career, he has composed declarative paintings that reflect his beliefs and obsessions. Despite the complexity of his work, he does not make preparatory drawings but does write a list of the conditions affecting a painting like temperature, geography and smell. Such notions are structured together as patterns, graphics, floral motifs, decorative flourishes and shockingly erotic displays. Read more.

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