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Lari Pittman

January 16 – February 13, 2016
530 West 21st Street
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Gladstone Gallery is pleased to announce NUEVOS CAPRICHOS, an exhibition of new paintings by Los Angeles-based artist Lari Pittman. Known for dense compositions that merge bold graphic design with historical modes of figuration, Pittman intricately crafts paintings shaped by a collision of abstract, geometric, and figurative forms. The artist reimagines and renders cultural mores, imagery from the realms of politics, philosophy, and popular culture, addressing issues of identity and socialization with familiar imagery acting as narrative catalyst.

In this exhibition of eight large-scale paintings, Pittman pays homage to Los Caprichos, a suite of etchings by Francisco Goya, first published as an album in 1799. In these etchings Goya illustrates the brutality of human behavior to comment on oppressive social conditions in eighteenth century Spanish culture. Pittman offers vignettes in the form of painting as a vehicle to address a broad range of social political issues, updating and renewing Goya’s Caprichos as a contemporary response to increasing levels of violence collectively internalized.

In place of Goya’s staunchly critical voice, Pittman aligns his subjects with language from Emily Dickinson, employing the poet’s voice to express a secular vision of the body, pain, and death. Pittman sees in Dickinson’s proto-feminist writing a secular vehicle to ruminate on larger philosophical issues of contemporary trauma, while not essentializing pain for herself or within her body.

Pittman’s work is calibrated in its balance of effusive, colorful, and buoyant forms with the ominous and uneasy effects of the figure. The artist depicts violence and decay as well as utopian fantasy; rather than serving as extraneous embellishment, decorative elements such as scrolls, arrows, borders and patterning function as formal devices moving the eye like a magnificent mosaic.

Pittman’s paintings are installed according to a domino motif that relates the canvases through connecting numbers, revealing both a narrative thread and linguistic play on the word domino, deriving from the 17th century word for lord or master. In this layered meaning, Pittman weaves together elements from the past with familiar scenes from our contemporary reality, exploring the way history is constructed and categorized, illustrating how trauma is transmitted and experienced visually, historically, and culturally.

Lari Pittman was born in 1952 in Glendale, California, and lives and works in Los Angeles, where he is a professor at University of California, Los Angeles. Pittman has been awarded the J. Paul Getty Trust Fund for the Visual Arts Fellowship Grant in Painting, the National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship Grant in Painting, and the Skowhegan Medal for Painting. He participated in Documenta X (1997) and four Whitney Biennial exhibitions (1985, 1993, 1995, 1997), and has been the subject of solo exhibitions at notable institutions including: the Contemporary Art Museum, St. Louis; Le Consortium, Dijon, France; the Institute of Contemporary Art, London; Centre d’Art Contemporain, Geneva; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles; the Corcoran Museum, Washington, D. C.; Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston; and Villa Arson, Nice, France.