Gary Carrion-Murayari on The Cloud of Misreading

Gary Carrion-Murayari, the Kraus Family Curator at the New Museum, one of the curators of the first solo exhibition of Raymond Pettibon The Cloud of Misreading talks about the show and the artist’s works and methods.

The Cloud of Misreading is Raymond Pettibon’s first solo exhibition in Russia. This presentation brings together nearly 400 works by the legendary American artist including drawings with his signature interplay of image and text, zines, videos, ephemera, and more.

Pettibon’s prodigious approach to drawing has resulted in a staggering accumulation of images from history, popular culture, nature, and literature. The artist’s early work from the late 1970s and 80s (distributed in self-published zines and on the covers of album covers in the nascent Southern California punk scene) offered a dark portrait of America in the second half of the 20th century. The protagonists of these works including violent mobsters, crooked cops, compromised women, corrupt youth, deranged hippies, cult members, and dimwitted punks. The stark imagery and darkly humorous captions of these works made Pettibon an underground legend long before he came to the attention of the larger art world.

By the early 1990s, Pettibon’s vision gradually expanded to encompass the breadth and complexity of American history and culture. The tenor of his work shifted from strident to poetic, with a gradual softening of his graphic style and expansion of his subject matter. In the past thirty years, he has created iconic series of drawings on subjects as varied as surfing, baseball, cartoons, natural history, love, war, and his own artistic aspirations and failings. The title of this exhibition evokes the creative use of language that has evolved in Pettibon’s work over the course of his career. The show also features a selection of source material from the artist’s monumental archive, demonstrating the way in which he edits, interprets, and re-contextualizes quotations from texts across disciplines and historical periods. This sculptural approach to writing and literary history has allowed Pettibon to craft an instantly recognizable language, one that is deeply personal and inherently communal, allowing major and minor voices to speak in unison.

Gary Carrion-Murayari

The Cloud of Misreading show brings together around four hundred works, including ephemera and materials from the personal archive of the artist. Most of them are drawings with fragments of text. Garage has published a booklet specially for the Raymond Pettibon show with translations of the texts that constitute the essential part of the artist’s works. You can find the printed version at the exhibition space and download the electronic version below. Poet, translator, and musician Kirill Medvedev has become the Russian voice of Raymond Pettibon. Here you can find a selection of works with their Russian translations.

Download the booklet

Exhibition booklet

In the Cloud of Misreading or trying to decipher Pettibon’s works

Garage has published a booklet specially for the Raymond Pettibon show with translations of the texts that constitute the essential part of the artist’s works. Poet, translator, and musician Kirill Medvedev has become the Russian voice of Raymond Pettibon. Here you can find a selection of works with their Russian translations.

Ведь я практически убежден: когда мы станем достаточно хорошо видеть и научимся доверять собственным глазам, не будет особой сложности в том, чтобы рисовать то, что мы видим.

Без названия («Ведь я…»). 2008

Бумага, тушь, перо, гуашь. 75,6 × 56,5 см

No Title (For I am…), 2008

Pen, ink, and gouache on paper
75.6 × 56.5 cm


Не знаю, что это было, но точно не летающая тарелка.

Без названия («Не знаю, что это было…»). 1991
Бумага, тушь, перо. 76,2 × 56,5 см
No Title (Whatever I saw…), 1991
Pen and ink on paper
76.2 × 56.5 cm


Они — бастион, защищающий американские интересы, американские военные базы от внутренних и внешних врагов.

Без названия («Они…»). 2014
Бумага, тушь, гуашь, уголь. 54,9 × 75,6 см
No Title (They are the…), 2014
Ink, gouache, and graphite on paper
54.9 × 75.6 cm


Насколько быстро? Невыразимо быстро…

Без названия («Насколько быстро? Невыразимо…»). 1960-е
Бумага, тушь, цветной мелок. 21,6 × 27,9 см
No Title (How fast? Unspeakably…), 1960s
Crayon and ink on paper
21.6 × 27.9 cm


По какому-то невообразимому стечению обстоятельств потом он снова возник в Константинополе.
Пламя, в котором сгораю, дарую ему.
Пока дрова ожидали этой милости.
В очаге.

Без названия («По какому-то невoобразимому…»). 1991
Бумага, тушь, перо. 64,8 × 58,4 см
No Title (By some strange…), 1991
Pen and ink on paper
64.8 × 58.4 cm



Я убил двоих!

Без названия («Я убил двоих!»). 1984
Бумага, тушь, перо. 26 × 36,8 см
No Title (I killed two!), 1984
Pen and ink on paper
26 × 36.8 cm


Отец называл меня «человеком на выброс».

Без названия («Отец называл меня…»). 1982
Бумага, тушь, перо. 27,9 × 21,6 см
No Title (My father called…), 1982
Pen and ink on paper
27.9 × 21.6 cm


Позвони мне, когда нагрузишься так, что не сможешь ходить или даже вести машину. Займемся любовью.

Без названия («Позвони мне, когда…»). 1985
Бумага, тушь, перо. 30,5 × 22,9 см
No Title (Call me when…), 1985
Pen and ink on paper
30.5 × 22.9 cm


На моей щеке сплошное мерцание. Лицо мое пасмурно. Постичь смысл.

Без названия («На моей щеке…»). 1995
Бумага, тушь, перо. 29,2 × 35,6 см
No Title (My cheek is…), 1995
Pen and ink on paper
29.2 × 35.6 cm


Иногда приближаемся к более высоким перистым облакам, иногда к более низким кучевым.

Без названия («Иногда приближаемся к…»). 2001
Бумага, тушь, акварель. 132,7 × 135,9 см
No Title (Sometimes approaching the…), 2001
Ink and watercolor on paper
132.7 × 135.9 cm


Я верю, что есть другие воды, бессмертные, неподвластные земному разложению.
Чистота восходит сквозь них все легче, все быстрее.

Без названия («Я верю, что…»). 1987
Бумага, тушь. 57,2 × 44,5 см
No Title (I believe that…), 1987
Ink on paper
57.2 × 44.5 cm


Проделал дыру.

Без названия («Проделал дыру»). 2006
Бумага, тушь, перо. 73,7 × 58,4 см
No Title (Bored a hole), 2006
Pen and ink on paper
73.7 × 58.4 cm


Кент Климчок, правый аутфилдер, «Ориолс».
«Чудила» Климчок.

Без названия («Кент Климчок…»). 1983
Бумага, тушь, перо. 30,5 × 22,2 см
No Title (Kent Klimchock…), 1983
Pen and ink on paper
30.5 × 22.2 cm


You can find the printed version of the booklet at the exhibition space and download the electronic version below.

Download the booklet



Word (Nec)romancer

Writer and curator Sarah Lehrer-Graiwer looks at the use of text in Raymond Pettibon’s work.

[…] Pettibon’s practice is so consistently scattershot, so single-mindedly pluralistic and all over the place, such an unrelenting spray of disjunctive flashes and wild outbursts, that strong patterns eventually must emerge across the field, as they do throughout all nature. Individual drawings amass into swarms that  together exhibit new forms of collective behavior. More on nature: “When I hang a show, for the most part, it’s usually just as well to put up the drawings randomly, because that’s the nature of the work. There are dissociations and attachments and the mind will fill in the blanks.”1 All-over-ness stimulates connectivity and logic fills any breach, instinctively and compulsively; the point being, randomness may not be as easy to achieve as it looks.

The drawings grow out of note-taking, note-keeping, and note-hoarding elevated to heroic heights. Like an exploded notebook, expressing high-velocity release and tearing apart, mental debris blasts across any paper surface, the studio floor, and the gallery walls.

Raymond Pettibon
No Title (It taught, it…), 2003
57.1 × 76.8 cm
Pen and ink on paper
Courtesy David Zwirner, New York 

The artist cares not that it’s already been said. In fact, he loves literature’s already-said-ness, maybe its best part—a point of mutual identification, contact, and commonality with a lineage of past Homo sapiens thinkers. (Pettibon prefers dead authors to those living.) And so much has already been said. Awareness of the archive’s vastness comes up early and comes on hard—such unfathomable enormity can either lead to a dead-end, cul-de-sac feeling of paralysis or to a feeling of liberation that enables the artist to work, draw, and write free of pressure. I mean, originality is not only not a new idea, I’d say it’s rather obsolete. Risk of redundancy will not stop the living. Redundancy is living. I, for one, get turned on by my own insignificance.

“[…] It’s a dialogue with the dead, with other writers, that’s what it is and any- one who has any background in literary history understands that. One of my models, Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy, is more a work of editing than it is of original writing.... You know the old cliche “The great writers steal, the other ones borrow?” That goes without saying.”2

Raymond Pettibon
No Title (An artist in…), 1986
35.6 × 27.9 cm
Pen and ink on paper
Courtesy David Zwirner, New York 

The practice of seamlessly and consistently integrating other writers’ words among his own in the form of verbatim or approximately quoted passages (he estimates about a third of his text is borrowed) is a multivalent proposition, accomplishing many things: It brings in a varied chorus of other voices, which is a way to put oneself in relation to a group of chosen others—to form a disembodied community. It’s a way of covering an author the way singers cover songs, bringing their style to bear on the rendition. It turns monologue into a kind of dialogue, relating his drawings to his parallel scriptwriting and filmmaking practice. It’s a way of speaking through others, dispersing and expanding identity beyond physical limitation.

[…] More than write it, Pettibon draws and paints text. Rare exceptions aside, language must come out, like the pictures, in his own hand. Handwriting expresses the timbre, pitch, and mood of voice; font and graphological style capture personality and identity.

Drawn out, his print is expressive and, considered in 2016, signals something other than “efficiency” or Word doc or professionalism and something more like care—lettering as tender form-making, or as a drawing from 1989 pro-fesses, I WRITE IT DOWN, EACH WORD, LOVINGLY.

[…] Sometimes cursive flows, but mostly Pettibon paints all-caps block letters in thin but solid black strokes. This scrawny capitalization has become his hallmark, his brand’s graphic identity: “To the public, my lettering is the most recognizable, identifiable part of my art, whether or not they actually read the text in the work.”3

“[…] I’m way behind in the work I’ve already set myself up for. I’m spread too thin.”4 Lack of focus, attention deficit, and feeling “spread thin” is increasingly a cultural, if not species-wide, epidemic, one with as-yet-unknown consequences, possibly terrifying and possibly electric. As Frances put it in that 1997 interview with Pettibon, “[t]here is a sense of so many books being open at once or something, it’s as if you like to have, like, uh, sort of God! I don’t know how to describe it but just to say like all books open, like so many things all open at once.”

Raymond Pettibon
No Title (Without their ears…), 2010
61 × 48.3 cm
Pen, ink and gouache on paper
Courtesy David Zwirner, New York 

[…] Of all Pettibon’s metaphoric proxies, from surfer to baseball player to superhero to penis, I prefer the authorial ones and the little boy with a monster hole in his head the most. Vavoom says “Vavoom.” He always says “Vavoom,” he only says “Vavoom.” Just one word, but oh what a big, big word. And he is the best at saying “Vavoom:” “It’s the only word he needs. It kind of fulfills all of his needs of expression and in my hands it usually becomes very literary. It’s sort of preoccupational with me, and because it’s just one word it becomes very liberating in the sense that you can read so much into it...harmony or cliche or figure of speech; it’s anything you want it to be.”5 Word and name coincide; identity is boiled down to and equated with that singular utterance for which he is known—or conversely, he is logos brought to life, the word made flesh. He is a magical invocation: mantra and motto, incantation and brute affirmation.

[…] Textual voices accumulate over time. Duration matters; moods shift as circumstances develop from day to day, month to month, minute to minute. Fortunes fluctuate, wars are waged, governments change hands. Drawings build and words gather slowly, often over the course of many years: “I’ve been at this for a long time, and I have voluminous amounts of unfinished work in the studio. They’re not all finished at one pass at the drawing board. So when I finally sign the work on the back...do I date it 2011, or 1989 to 2011?”6 This makes it tricky to pin the drawings down in time or chronology—and I cling to such difficulty. I love that there are very long delays between the beginning and completion of a work, confirming the primacy of the whole practice, as a function of time, over any particular piece. The supreme achievement, the insane passion, is the sustained dedication to a life of reading and drawing, each drawing a mere signpost pointing that way.

This is an extract from the exhibition catalogue A Pen of All Work (New York: New Museum/Phaidon, 2016), which is available from Garage Bookshop.

The material was published in Garage Gazette 2017 issue.


1. Raymond Pettibon, interview by Grady Turner, “Raymond Pettibon,” BOMB, Fall 1999, 42.

2. Pettibon in Frances Stark, This Could Become a Gimick [sic] or an Honest Articulation of the Workings of the Mind, ed. João Ribas (Cambridge, MA: MIT List Visual Arts Center, 2010), 43.

3. Pettibon, interview by Kristine McKenna, Alack (for to no other pass my verses tend), by Raymond Pettibon, Kristine McKenna, and Ed Hamilton, edition of 20 (Venice, CA: Hamilton Press, 2009), 7.

4. Ibid, p. 6.

5. Pettibon in Ulrich Loock, “Interview with Raymond Pettibon,” Raymond Pettibon, ed. Ulrich Loock (Bern: Kunsthalle Bern, 1995), 28.

6. Pettibon, 2011 interview by Mike Kelley, in “By Way of Norman Greenbaum,” in Raymond Pettibon, ed. Ralph Rugoff (New York/Los Angeles: Rizzoli/Regen Projects, 2013).


Raymond Pettibon at Garage

Surfing is one of the most iconic and poetic Raymond Pettibon's images. The Cloud of Misreading at Garage presents both small-scale and monumental surf paintings, as this one, painted by the artist especially for Garage. Watch the artist's work in progress, and come to see the exhibition.

Book review

Books on Raymond Pettibon

The selection was prepared by Valery Ledenev, Anastasia Tishunina, Maria Shmatko and Yuri Yurkin

The Raymond Pettibon exhibition The Cloud of Misreading is on at Garage until August 13. Garage Research has prepared a selection of books on the artist and punk culture, essential for getting a closer insight into his practice.

Raymond Pettibon. The Cloud of Misreading. Exhibition guide

Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, 2017

Garage has prepared an illustrated guide to The Cloud of Misreading that includes texts, found in nearly every single work by the artist, translated to Russian by writer Kirill Medvedev. It is not an easy task to ‘decipher’ some of the artist’s pieces: he is famous not only for his recognizable graphic style, but also for non-linear approach to textual material. Pettibon engages with a variety of sources: from literature to mass media. The artist never makes direct citations, but rather processes texts through his individual perspective, making it a rather complicated task for a viewer to navigate through this sort of intertextuality. ‘Situating the work of Raymond Pettibon historically or theoretically poses almost insurmountable problems, given the infinite variety of references that constitute the iconography and citational textuality of his oeuvre,’—notes Benjamin Buchloh in his essay published in a catalogue for the artist’s retrospective A Pen of All Work, held at the New Museum in New York (further mentioned below). All in all, we can recommend checking the guide. V.L.

The Encyclopedia of Punk

Sterling Publishing, 2010

This extensive encyclopedic title can be recommended to anyone interested in what is ‘punk’ and why is it of interest. The key block of information in the book comprises biographical entries on heroes of punk scene—from legendary bands, like ‘The Ramones’, ‘Sex Pistols’ and ‘Black Flag’ (Pettibon’s elder brother was a part of the latter, the artist created album covers for them) to lesser-known music collectives. Biographies are featured alongside articles on musical origins of punk and cultural-historical context on the moment of its birth. A whole spread is devoted to Raymond Pettibon and his contribution to punk cover-art design. In the encyclopedia’s supplement you can find timelines, showing the key dates in punk history, mentions of the most important TV-features on punk, top-ten compilations of all kinds ('ten most politically active bands', 'ten best drummers', 'ten shortest songs in the genre') and a ranking of the hundred best and must-listen punk albums. The book includes many illustrations, including reproductions of album covers, portraits, and concert photos, making it a well-deserved tribute to the vivid and provocative subculture. A.T.

Punk Press: Rebel Rock in the Underground Press 1968–1980

Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers, 2012

This panoramic title is also devoted to punk culture, born in the 1960s, however, it is not all about the musical component to punk, a large part is devoted to phenomenon of zines—amateur small-circulation magazines, published by fans of various phenomena in culture. Pettibon himself is known for producing zines, some of them are included in the exhibition at Garage. John Savage, music journalist, author of the opening article for Punk Press, writes on the pleasures of creating zines: ‘What I loved about fanzines was that the opportunity was there to do anything you wanted. There were no constrictions of budget, imagined readership, focus group, CEOs dictating editorial policy. Whatever was on your mind, you could just do it. A magazine of pure graphics with no words? Great! Articles about the situationists? Bring it on!’ The book features many zine reviews, published from 1968 to 1980. In time, some of them grew into wide-circulation periodicals, yet the majority remained fan-art compilations, made by their authors mainly for the sake of their own pleasure. Punk Press is an excellent study of punk culture’s visual component, as well as music journalism in general: apart from zines, it includes many graphic novels, facsimiles of magazine articles on punk, interviews with artists, and concert photos. A.T.

Raymond Pettibon. Homo Americanus. Collected Works

David Zwirner Books, 2016

Disregarding the publisher’s synopsis, the book Homo Americanus is not just a catalogue for the exhibition of the same name, that took place at Museum der Moderne Salzburg. It is an extensive monograph, prepared by the artist himself. Thirty-two chapters of the book include graphic works of Raymond Pettibon spanning from 1970, all accompanied by the artist’s own commentary, taken from an interview with the curator Ulrich Loock. These sudden textual remarks appear as literary support to the visual kaleidoscope, not interrupting, but rather contributing to the overall artistic text of the catalogue. Incorporating text into graphic works, according to Pettibon, allows him to ‘сompress stories into single pictures’. The book doesn’t seek to present another overview of Pettibon’s practice, but create a detailed account on the metamorphoses of leitmotifs in his art, such as trains, surfing, religions, erotics, solitude, baseball, presidents, rock stars, and many others. Not leaving any spare space even inside viewer’s imagination, Pettibon’s ‘drawings-in-themselves’ are elevated to the status of witness accounts for the artist’s existence, documentation of his life, fears, humor, news, favorite books and songs. Even if in this book we are dealing with the artist’s mythology, at least we can recognize the artist inside it. As he himself has confessed ‘to be entirely selfless is an attempt that I think fails’. M.S.

Raymond Pettibon. A Pen of All Work

Phaidon, 2017

Another major exhibition of Raymond Pettibon took place last spring in the New Museum in New York. The American show, titled A Pen of All Work— like the current show in Moscow—was prepared by Massimiliano Gioni and Gary Carrion-Murayari. Some of the works seen at the New York exhibition can now be found at Garage. The catalogue for A Pen of All Work includes everything a publication of its type needs: articles by critics (such as Benjamin Buchloh), the curator’s interview with the artist and, of course, the images. According to the New Museum’s director Lisa Phillips, Raymond Pettibon is ‘a good candidate to be one of those one-person museums’. In fact, this publication, in a way, is a museum itself—however, a printed museum,—that provides a very detailed account on the expressive practice of the artist. Y.Y.

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