Noir features a rarely seen group of drawings from the 1980s by Raymond Pettibon, made while the artist was living in Los Angeles amid punk rock’s heady, breakout atmosphere. Filled with counterculture references, from skinhead lovers and doomed jets to stickups, nocturnal propositions, careening cars, and the Sunset Strip, these works mark the emergence of Pettibon’s singular hand and the origins of techniques and motifs that have proved important throughout his career. Noir evokes the Hollywood genre that flourished in the 1940s and ’50s, providing both mood and subject matter to draw from—sometimes literally, as seen in some of these pieces—and remains a potent theme in Pettibon’s work. The artist’s simultaneous address to wider sociopolitical topics, among them global warming and US imperialism, affirms this period as foundational for his practice in its astute, kaleidoscopic rendition of contemporary culture.
Ripe with punk subversion and a certain sublime quality that is truly cinematic, these drawings resonate into the present day. As gallery director Andrea Cashman explains, "The iconography of these works speaks to intense moments for our own cultural reckoning, with subtle undertones of the Reagan era and how that may, in some ways, relate to our current sociopolitical climate. Without being heavy-handed, Pettibon’s finger is always on the zeitgeist, exploring ways to appreciate and critique it in one stroke."