Lari Pittman, (b. 1952, Los Angeles, CA, lives and works in Los Angeles, CA). Over the course of his decades-long career, Lari Pittman has developed a unique visual aesthetic that has established him as one of the most significant painters of his generation. Pittman’s signature, densely-layered painting style includes a lexicon of signs and symbols (such as bells, eggs, animals, ropes), a compilation of varied painting techniques, and a clear homage to the handmade, craft, and the decorative. Pittman creates complex compositions that mediate the tension between color, text and imagery; landscape and decoration; and chaos and order with remarkable dexterity and often on a large scale, and he has an innate ability to create compositions in which each element within a painting is given equal space and significance.
In the mid-1970s, Pittman attended California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, California, completing a BFA and an MFA. The institute’s strong feminist arts program challenged the devaluation of art forms traditionally associated with women, and it was partially as a result of his engagement with this program that Pittman developed an interest in undermining aesthetic hierarchies and embracing the decorative arts. Pittman’s strong affinity for the decorative can be seen throughout his many bodies of work, and it has contributed to his singular visual style. While Pittman’s early works were informed by the socio-political struggle resulting from the peak of the AIDS epidemic, racial discord, and LGBTQ+ civil rights struggles that defined the last two decades of the 20th century, his later paintings evince a shift in focus towards interior spaces, including domestic and psychological subjects.
Pittman received his BFA from California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, CA in 1974 and his MFA from California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, CA in 1976. Recent solo exhibitions of his work include a forthcoming exhibition at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA (2019), Lari Pittman: Mood Books, the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, San Marino, CA (2016); Lari Pittman, Le Consortium, Dijon, France (2013); A Decorated Chronology, Museum of Contemporary Art St. Louis, St. Louis, MO (2013); Lari Pittman, Villa Arson, Nice, France (2005); Lari Pittman, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA (1996), Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, TX (1996), Corcoran Museum, Washington D.C. (1997); Lari Pittman: Works on paper, 1982 to 1995, the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA (1996), University Art Museum, University of California, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA (1996). Select group exhibitions featuring Pittman’s work include Waking Dream, Ruby City, San Antonio, TX (forthcoming); Less Is a Bore: Maximalist Art & Design, ICA Boston, Boston, MA (forthcoming); cart, horse, cart, Lehmann Maupin, New York, NY; Give a Damn., the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY (2018); The Long Run, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY (2017); Between Two Worlds: Art of California, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA (2017); Inaugural Installation, the Broad, Los Angeles, CA, (2015); The Art of Our Time, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA (2015); Art AIDS America, West Hollywood Library and One Archives Gallery and Museum, Los Angeles, CA (2015), Tacoma Art Museum, Tacoma, WA (2015), Zuckerman Museum of Art, Kennesaw, GA (2016), the Bronx Museum of the Arts, New York, NY (2016), Alphawood Gallery, Chicago, IL (2017); America is Hard to See, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY (2015); Earthly Delights, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Chicago, IL (2014); and Comic Future, Ballroom Marfa, Marfa, TX (2013), Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, OH, (2014). Pittman has participated in multiple biennial exhibitions, including documenta X, Kassel, Germany (1997) and the 1997, 1995, 1993, and 1985 Whitney Biennial exhibitions.
Pittman’s work is in numerous public and private collections, including the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY; the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL; the Broad, Los Angeles, CA; the Carnegie Institute of Art, Pittsburgh, PA; the Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Torino, Italy; the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY; Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, MA; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA; the Marciano Art Foundation, Los Angeles, CA; the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Chicago, IL; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Monterrey, Mexico; the Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; the Peter Norton Family Foundation, Santa Monica, CA; the Phoenix Museum of Art, Phoenix, AZ; the Rhode Island School of Design Museum, Providence, RI; the Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA; the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, CA; the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT.
Artist portrait by William Jess Laird