Rudolf Budja Galerie
Richard Pettibone (1938)

Turning the plebian into the sublime has always been considered the premise of Andy Warhol, who thus spawned legions of admirers, detractors and copycats.

Seen as a copycat by some, and as an appropriationist to others, Richard Pettibone is an iconoclast who, during the course of four decades, has turned notions of originality on their head. While Warhol reproduced products and made countless serial images of public figures like Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley or Jackie Kennedy, Pettibone made it his mission to reproduce the reproductions, albeit on a smaller and more appealing scale.

But this survey of the artist’s work shows that appropriation of Warhol’s oeuvre is just a small segment of Pettibone’s surprisingly diverse repertoire. He also took on Da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa,” contemporary icons such as Robert Rauschenberg and Frank Stella, to name a few. Then again, he found inspiration in the clean-lined furniture (though not the religious tenets) of the Shakers and, in a removed but somewhat similar vein, the reductivist aesthetic of Constantin Brancusi.

Pettibone’s work displays wit and a whimsical, self-depreciating sense of humor in his incorporation of text/word art, a pop art offshoot often associated with Ed Ruscha. Since Pettibone admires Ezra Pound, he quotes the poet in some works and also has reproduced the dustcovers of Pound’s books. In an interview (published in the accompanying catalog) the artist quotes Pound regarding the need for bad painters to be punished, taking the point a step further to include painters who aim to merely please the public.

Thus Pettibone implies that he prefers to photograph and re-paint good museum pieces, rather than produce bad original ones of his own. The virtue of such thinking really is up to you to decide. But it seems that he wants us to get into the works--and perhaps in his face--by asking whether he’s making art or simply plagiarizing.

© http://artscenecal.com, by Daniella Walsh