David Pagel reflects on the recent exhibition Lari Pittman: From a Late Western Impaerium at Regen Projects, Los Angeles.
Pagel writes: "The intoxicating mélange of phantasmagorical apparitions and penetrating realism in [the show] is both majestic and matter-of-fact. It gives visitors a kick that sometimes seems to be the visual equivalent of hot flashes-unbidden, unwelcome, disorienting-and at others seems be absolutely lucid, so clear-eyed and grounded that it’s impossible to see it as anything other than objective. Part of that has to do with the fact that Pittman’s paintings are super-realistic depictions of a world in which delusional behavior has become normative. The myths our most powerful citizens live by do not elevate or inspire: they diminish, belittle, and stultify-strangling what is vital in society by turning everyday life into a mean-spirited struggle for survival, at best a holding operation that aims to cut loses, hedge bets, and stave off disaster. When that happens, culture grows overripe and rots. Up close and in person, everyday life turns into a low-budget, do-it-yourself version of a sequel: the same old stuff gets trotted out, once again, with all the moves and manners of the first time, but none of the wonder or sense of discovery that once made it memorable. Going through the motions is all that is left because what’s on the horizon is worse: the end of everything not only cherished but hoped for. That’s where Pittman, the indefatigable painter, enters the picture: Cramming his desperate message into a gallery-size bottle, he shows visitors what an individual can do with two hands and a paintbrush when he cuts to the chase and leaves no room for self-pity."