Looking for an image that conveys the experience of living in America at the end of the millennium? One of Lari Pittman's new works just might fit the bill. In this brilliant show, the 47-year-old Los Angeles artist presents eight new paintings on wood panels (and several works on paper) that are among the largest, most eloquent and ambitious of his career.
Rendered in his familiar, boldly graphic style, the densely packed compositions are more intricate than ever. Pittman has toned down his garish palette somewhat, and the surfaces lack some of the textural nuances in many earlier works, yet each piece sings with a vibrant sense of immediacy, acerbic wit and humor.
Always at Your Service, I Will Have Had Learned the Exquisite Power of Etiquette seems to be a fractured study of suburban mores. Here, shooting flames from a burning house resemble decals on a 1950s hot rod. Other works, such as Gratefully, I Will Have Had Learned Embellishment of Sublimation, capture a sense of America's values as well as its conceits -- despite their outlandish titles.
Thankfully, I Will Have Had Learned to Break Glass with Sound, an 8-by-26½-foot acrylic-and-alkyd composition on mahogany panel, is filled with figures, architectural fragments, abstract shapes and lettering. A number of men are portrayed with their mouths covered by sheer veils, as if preoccupied with notions of health, cleanliness and "queenliness." Bottles labeled semen, Merlot, pollen or dirt propose obscure dichotomies of health and hedonism, while others labeled myrrh, gold, paprika and urine hint at a certain retrospective mind-set that ranges from Biblical times to the age of AIDS.
Lari Pittman, Nov. 6-Dec. 23, 1999, at Barbara Gladstone, 515 West 24th Street, New York, N.Y. 10011.