The Tang Museum and the Laguna Art Museum have co-organized the first retrospective exhibition of Richard Pettibone’s artwork in over twenty years. The show presents the full range of the artist’s career, from his early shadow-box assemblages to his more recent sculptures and paintings. Pettibone’s earliest works indulged his fascination with model-making and the miniature, which paved the way for the work that would bring him to critical attention in Los Angeles in the mid-sixties. By 1964 he had found his voice in small-scale “copies” of paintings by newly famous New York artists like Frank Stella, Roy Lichtenstein, and Andy Warhol. Later Pettibone began to combine and juxtapose different appropriated images into larger, uniquely shaped canvases. He also created sculptures based on the work of early modernists like Constantin Brancusi and Piet Mondrian, and even found inspiration in the poetry of Ezra Pound and the pared-down aesthetics of Shaker furniture.
While Warhol continues to fascinate him, Pettibone’s most insistent theme has been an ever-expanding discourse with the jokester of twentieth-century art, Marcel Duchamp. Over the years, Richard Pettibone’s work has evolved from an art of unrelenting satire to an illusively transforming art of commemoration, subtlety, and beauty. He has created a body of work that is assuredly and paradoxically a unique contribution to the tradition of critiquing the myths of modernism.