Raymond Pettibon

Raymond Pettibon
Hedi Slimane

Raymond Pettibon will be creating a poster for Station to Station.

Raymond Pettibon’s often black and white, comic-like drawings have graced album covers and gallery walls, from the likes of Sonic Youth and Black Flag, to the world’s most renowned museums. He grew up in Redondo Beach and continues to live and work in Los Angeles, drawing inspiration from his diverse surroundings.

Interview by Doug Aitken with Raymond Pettibon

Doug Aitken: At what point did you start drawing?

Raymond Pettibon: Like many kids, I fooled around. A lot of artists probably start the same way: doing all sorts of editorial-type, political cartoons, punk rock cartoons, drawings of Superman. Then they grow up or evolve…It worked for me.

DA: Do you ever think of your work like advertisements or billboards, in the sense that you’re making work with images and text?

RP: I was making flyers; they were advertisements for my brother’s band, Black Flag. One thing I will never complain about is what they call the visual pollution of billboards and signs. Take the billboards out of L.A. and does that improve the environment? It doesn’t to me.


DA: We’re living in this place that is covered with text and information, and it’s visually aggressive. You have to be honest with it, don’t suppress it or bury it. What is your idea of the west?

RP: There was that hit song about California falling off and tumbling into the sea. I think it’s just wishful thinking from everyone else in the world that California…

DA: Will just fall off and fade over?

RP: It’s such a powerful wish.

DA: Do you think there’s kind of a collective anxiety in California?

RP: No, I don’t notice it. It’s more likely that the rest of the world has one eye on it – one resentful eye – and somehow that’s an issue.

DA: There’s a specific energy that you find here. Something that is focused on the moment more than it is anchored in history or obsessed with the future. If you were to sum up the west in one word, what would you say?

RP: To me, it’s like hearing that cue “West Side!” It’s Snow White, Cinderella, Fantasy Land, Tom Sawyer’s island, the frontier land. What’s real?

DA: That’s almost the value of this place. It continuously questions what is real, but without an answer. Raymond, give me one word…

RP: Jerry West. He’s from West Virginia. But look at him! L.A. is the place that collects people from all over the world.

This interview originally appeared in “The Idea of the West” (2010)