Over the course of his decades-long career, Lari Pittman (b. 1952, Los Angeles, CA, lives and works in Los Angeles, CA) has developed a unique visual aesthetic that has established him as one of the most significant painters of his generation. Pittman’s signature, densely-layered painting style includes a lexicon of signs and symbols (such as bells, eggs, animals, and ropes), a compilation of varied painting techniques, and a clear homage to the handmade, craft, and the decorative. Pittman creates complex compositions that mediate the tension between color, text, and imagery; landscape and decoration; and chaos and order with remarkable dexterity and often on a large scale, and the artist has an innate ability to create compositions in which each element within a painting is given equal space and significance.
In the mid-1970s, Pittman attended California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, California, completing a B.F.A. and an M.F.A. The Institute’s strong feminist arts program challenged the devaluation of art forms traditionally associated with women, and it was partially as a result of his engagement with this program that Pittman developed an interest in undermining aesthetic hierarchies and embracing the decorative arts. Pittman’s strong affinity for the decorative can be seen throughout his numerous bodies of work, and it has contributed to his singular visual style. While Pittman’s early works were informed by the socio-political struggle resulting from the peak of the AIDS epidemic, racial discord, and LGBTQ+ civil rights struggles that defined the last two decades of the 20th century, his later paintings evince a shift in focus towards interior spaces, including domestic and psychological subjects.
Pittman received his B.F.A. from California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, CA in 1974 and his M.F.A. from California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, CA in 1976. Solo exhibitions of his work have been organized at Museo Jumex, Mexico City, Mexico (2022); Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA (2019); The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, San Marino, CA (2016); Le Consortium, Dijon, France (2013); Museum of Contemporary Art St. Louis, St. Louis, MO (2013); Villa Arson, Nice, France (2005); Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Los Angeles, CA (1996); Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, TX (1996); Corcoran Gallery, Washington, D.C. (1997); Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA (1996); and University Art Museum, University of California Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA (1996), among others. Select group exhibitions featuring Pittman’s work include Chapter Three, Amore Pacific Museum of Art, Seoul, South Korea (2021); Invisible Sun, The Broad, Los Angeles, CA (2021); Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL (2020); 50 + 50: A Creative Century from Chouinard to CalArts, REDCAT, Los Angeles, CA (2020); Waking Dream, Ruby City, San Antonio, TX (2019); Less Is a Bore: Maximalist Art & Design, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA (2019); Give a Damn., the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY (2018); The Long Run, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY (2017); Between Two Worlds: Art of California, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), San Francisco, CA (2017); Inaugural Installation, The Broad, Los Angeles, CA, (2015); The Art of Our Time, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA (2015); Art AIDS America, West Hollywood Library and One Archives Gallery and Museum, Los Angeles, CA (2015), Tacoma Art Museum, Tacoma, WA (2015), Zuckerman Museum of Art, Kennesaw, GA (2016), the Bronx Museum of the Arts, New York, NY (2016), Alphawood Gallery, Chicago, IL (2017); America is Hard to See, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY (2015); Earthly Delights, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Chicago, IL (2014); and Comic Future, Ballroom Marfa, Marfa, TX (2013), Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, OH, (2014). Pittman has participated in multiple biennial exhibitions, including documenta X, Kassel, Germany (1997) and the 1997, 1995, 1993, and 1985 Whitney Biennial exhibitions.
Pittman’s work is in numerous public and private collections, including the Akron Museum of Art, Akron, OH; Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY; Amore Pacific Museum of Art, Seoul, South Korea; Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL; The Broad, Los Angeles, CA; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, PA; Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Torino, Italy; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA; Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, MA; Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Los Angeles, CA; Marciano Art Foundation, Los Angeles, CA; Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Chicago, IL; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA; Museum of Contemporary Art, Monterrey, Mexico; The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Newport Harbor Art Museum, Newport Beach, CA; Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach, CA; Palm Springs Art Museum, Palm Springs, CA; Peter Norton Family Foundation, Santa Monica, CA; Phoenix Museum of Art, Phoenix, AZ; Rhode Island School of Design Museum, Providence, RI; Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA; Sammlung Goetz, Munich, Germany; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), San Francisco, CA; Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, CA; Sheldon Museum of Art, Lincoln, NE; Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY; Weatherspoon Art Museum, The University of North Carolina, Greensboro, NC; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT; and Zabludowicz Collection, London, United Kingdom.
Artist portrait by William Jess Laird