Monday, December 9

Professor questions society through art


Professor questions society through art

Themes of honesty, sexuality imbue each energetic piece on
display at Armand Hammer Museum

By Dawnya Pring

Daily Bruin Contributor

The drawings of Lari Pittman tantalize and engage viewers with
abstract images of sex, death, birth and hope.

The UCLA art professor’s diverse artistic talents are on view at
UCLA’s Armand Hammer Museum. Pittman refers to his artworks as
drawings, but in actuality they are multimedia works on paper.
Acrylic, enamel and gold leaf are a just a few of the elements
utilized by Pittman to create his very personal commentaries on
society.

The paintings wrestle with ideas of gender roles and society
norms. Pittman’s concerns with questions of honesty and sexuality
permeate every whimsical and highly ornate piece. His art is
intricate with layers of contrasting visual images, pitting
familiar western iconography like pirate ships, volcanoes and
battle-shields against abstract and excessive decorative
elements.

But the complexity of his art is exactly why it works so well.
It is kinetic, full of energy, vigor and life. Whether they depict
fantasy voyages to a better land or explicit sexual innuendoes
juxtaposed against Victorian silhouettes, the pieces together make
a compelling exhibit.

Travels to visionary lands is a strong theme running through
many Pittman pieces. Two of Pittman’s most ambitious works, "Where
Honesty Will Be a Natural Reaction (3182 AD)," and "Where the
Expression of Love Will Be Encouraged (2385 AD)," depict
multi-masted ships nearing the end of their search for a better
land.

In both paintings, islands of erupting volcanoes represent
Pittman’s extraordinary new world. The exotic destinations sit
amidst deep blue seas designating the end of a long journey. The
islands become the optimistic conclusions to the questions
suggested in the painting titles.

Pittman’s hopeful dream is further illustrated with the
depiction of fanciful cities. The cities appear like vignettes,
floating in space or resting near the bottom of his compositions.
Little buildings with domes and turrets form complex and layered
clusters.

The art in the exhibit has an overall exuberant decorative
detail. Islands, cities and ships compete for attention making the
artwork fun to look at while contemplating more serious issues.

It is easy to concentrate on the minute details of Pittman’s
work, looking for an explanation. But it is the totality of the
painting that should be taken into consideration. Ultimately the
paintings ask more questions regarding society than they
answer.

ART: "Lari Pittman Drawings" through March 10 at UCLA’s Armand
Hammer Museum. TIX: $4.50, $1 UCLA students. Thursday evenings
free. For more info, call (310) 443-7000.

Lari Pittman’s acrylic-on-paper "Untitled #52"

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