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Lari Pittman at the Hammer Museum

On View: September 29, 2019–January 5, 2020

Lari Pittman started painting at a time when painting was pretty uncool. Still, throughout his 40-year career, Pittman has boldly created a signature style of painting that embraces decoration, pattern, figuration, and garish color, at times working against the grain of preferred styles or taste. A retrospective of the artists four decade career is on view at The Hammer, offering a rare look at the artists cohesive output, and the stylistic progressions he has made over his career. The paintings are extremely dense, and each one involves multiple hand-painted scenarios happening in tandem, swirling together to create complex narratives. As a master in opposites, Pittman often uses two opposing images or colors (saws and nooses share space with cartoon cats and bright and cheery lettering that reads “Go For It!” or “Love!”), creating embedded tension in each large scale painting. Pittman is invested in dealing with social issues of the day (violence, gender, sexuality), but hides these themes within his layered patterning and dense visual style. This complicates an easy viewing experience, and provides the feeling that you are constantly uncovering little secrets as you look at peer into one of these works.