Monday, November 21, 2005

Richard Pettibone

The Richard Pettibone show that debuted at the Philadelphia ICA and which Roberta Smith wrote so positively on for the NYTimes opened at the Tang Saturday night, and before the opening Pettibone and co-curator Ian Berry sat down for a public discussion.

Pettibone, best known for making perfectly crafted miniatures of other artist's work - Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Frank Stella, Constantin Brancusi, Marcel Duchamp - says he has always been into model-making, especially trains, and Ian Berry noted that even today a model train encircles his studio; you need to lift up a section of track to enter.

Pettibone was born in California in 1938 and received an MFA from Otis in 1962(!), which he says "was a horrible school". His BIG artistic influences were seeing Duchamp's first U.S. retrospective at the Pasadena Art Museum (1963) and Warhol's thirty-two cans of soup at Ferus (1962). The Warhol show left a huge impression: "people were furious", "other artists were red in the face", it "made a big impression on me", "I'm still doing that thirty-two cans of soup".

Pettibone noted that with the Warhol's "it wasn't ever one painting, it was many paintings" - Ferus was a small gallery with walls that created three "rooms", every wall of which was soup cans - but today you usually see a selection of them "compacted for practicle reasons", like at MoMA. Pettibone considers Warhol's soup cans "the best piece of pop art that ever was made", adding "he never did anything better" and "It's a curious phenomenon. I've seen it many times. An artist's greatest work is the first work and the whole rest of the career is, what's the point?".

On the Duchamp show, curated by Walter Hopps (who also co-owned Ferus and gave Andy the soup can show), Pettibone recalled that the book came out before the show, and it (the book) was "all about the non-retinal and non-retinal art, etc" but we went to the show and "it was the most beautiful show". Pettibone said "I don't believe (in) that non-retinal. Art should be beautiful".

Pettibone said Walter Hopps was "the first artworld bigshot that ever bought a painting of mine", and he had his first solo at Ferus, but soon moved to NYC. When Ian asked "what brought you to NY?", Pettibone replied "fame and fortune". Ian also asked about other artist's responses to Pettibone's copying of their work - Andy Warhol said "oh, those are funny", Roy Lichtenstein loved them, "all the pop art people got it". Frank Stella "never liked 'em, he never got it", "Stella was offended". Pettibone shared a funny story of finding out that Frank Stella had bought ten of his paintings, all miniature Stellas, and soon after running into Stella at a party. When Pettibone introduced himself Stella turned and walked away. Pettibone has no idea what Stella did with the paintings, "maybe he took'em to burn'em".

There are some really beautiful little Stella black paintings in the Tang show, plus lots of his colored arc stuff. Pettibone said "I'm not opposed to repeating myself", then he said it again.

I have more I'll share later.

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