Dear Raymond

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I stumbled across these a while ago. I’ve liked Raymond Pettibon for a while, dragged to go see a gallery full of his drawings in 2003 by a friend who was a huge Black Flag fan (his brother is Greg Ginn; he started off doing posters and album art in the hardcore scene) which looking back was his first solo show in London.

I think it was the first time I’d seen text used with drawings in a way that seemed oddly heartfelt, brutally honest and with rather more than a touch of irony. They rambled and they ranted. They spoke to me.

” described by the critic Robert Storr as “ideas, echoes and impressions that well up and marble in the imagination”.[1] Threaded through with an oblique, elusive irony, Pettibon’s drawings veer between homage and critique in their reflection of American politics, culture and counter-culture from the 1960s onward.”

I think the juxtaposition of the writing and image was one my first examples of the combination- and they didn’t always seem to reconcile with each other, which I liked.

I just recently found this article from the Believer of him talking about his process.

BLVR: You’ve also said that while you’re working the drawing seems like a chore and what you like best is the writing. Has that always been the case?

RP: Yeah, definitely. I think I always enjoy the writing more. If you saw every show or every book I’ve been in—and this is coming from someone who’s considered to have produced a gratuitous amount of work—you would see what I mean.

BLVR: With writing and drawing, does one bring out the other for you?

RP: It’s not that exact, as if I dream in images and my waking thoughts are in text, or as if my daydreams become my captions and illustrations. I don’t know if it’s good to separate the two too much actually. But yeah, one depends on the other. There’s always a latent or inferred image in my writing. And I can almost always assume if I do a drawing that it will eventually have text.

BLVR: Books have also had a big influence on your art, and you’ve said that sometimes it’s not just a matter of editing the lines you put in but that the lines themselves become your context. Can you explain?

RP: I think that was in reference to my drawings where the lines are actually cut out from the text and put in, although it doesn’t have to be. The distinction is hardly there. There are instances where lines in my work are borrowed or stolen from sources, mainly from books, or they become my own versions. A lot of the writing is my own, too. But if someone were to take each drawing and trace it back to its source, most of them could be traced back to a book or a text.


Images from:

for more Moma has a huge online collection here:


About CT

Claire Townsend is a freelance costume designer/maker and theatre practitioner.
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