Ruscha, MOCA, Pettibon & Bush

No it’s not a law firm, but you might be asking, “what on earth do those names have in common?” On January 17th, Artnet Magazine reported that the “Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, has added three new trustees to its board, among them artist Ed Ruscha, whose work has been included in eight exhibitions at the museum over the years.”

What Artnet failed to mention in their report was the connection the renowned Pop artist has to the administration of George W. Bush. The Bush State Department selected Ruscha as “America’s representative” to the 2005 Venice Biennale, a position the artist enthusiastically accepted. Back in May of 2005, to the great chagrin of Ruscha’s legions of flatterers, fellow artist James W. Bailey and I wrote about Ruscha’s association with the Bush State Department, an article that takes on renewed importance now that Ruscha has become a trustee at L.A.’s Museum of Contemporary Art.

And speaking of collaborative projects with the king of minimalist postmodernisms, Ruscha has teamed up with Raymond Pettibon for a two man exhibit at the Pomona College Museum of Art. Billed as an exploration of “the tensions, congruencies, and associations of image and text,” the collaborative works on display at Pomona College consist of new drawings and prints.

Pettibon is well known for having designed album covers and flyers for Black Flag, one of L.A.’s most aggressively nihilistic early punk bands. We both worked as artists in L.A.’s nascent punk rock scene, but Pettibon went on to refashion himself into a postmodernist art star, raking in accolades, awards, major exhibitions, and a few million dollars along the way. I’m still waiting for my State Department appointment and an invitation to work with Ed Ruscha (HA!).

I’ve had the dubious honor of exhibiting works with Pettibon at the 2003 Art of Punk exhibit at LA’s Kantor Gallery.

But my “fondest” memory of him comes from attending a riotous punk concert in some dark, dank Hollywood venue back in 1980. I don’t remember who was playing, but Pettibon was on the crowded stage horsing around with band members. In a brief lull between songs someone on the stage threw a beer bottle… it arched across the hall and exploded on a wall just inches from my girlfriend’s head. I was fuming mad, yelling insults and bent on reprisal, but as people held me back I could see Pettibon step to the front of the stage, bending over to moon me and the entire audience.

That is how I shall forever remember Raymond Pettibon.

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