Considered the most comprehensive 20 year retrospective of the Los Angeles–based artist Lari Pittman, an exhibition titled Lari Pittman: Declaration of Independence is now being shown for the first time at the UCLA Hammer Museum in Westwood. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Lari Pittman, he is a long revered and distinguished Professor at the UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture. 

Lari Pittman, How Sweet the Day After This and That, Deep Sleep Is Truly Welcomed, 1988

Lari Pittman, How Sweet the Day After This and That, Deep Sleep Is Truly Welcomed, 1988

“From his earliest experiments with collage and decoration during his formative years at California Institute of the Arts, to the iconic paintings produced in response to the AIDS crisis and culture wars of the 1990s, to his present philosophical investigations into the history-telling of textiles, Pittman’s works have remained some of the most prescient and influential of any artist since the 1980s.”

Lari Pittman, Transfigurative and Needy, 1991

Walking through the galleries of his retrospective years, you can begin to unfold where much of his language and visual culture comes from. As the son of a Colombian mother and an American father, and fluent in both Spanish and English, he has the sensibility of being able to switch between both languages. In most of his artworks, this fluidity can be seen in the imagery and painting technique. He uses a lot of traditional oil paints with mixtures of spray-paint and stenciling. He renders bodies that at times take the form of silhouettes, and at times abstract forms that overthrow the conformity of binary genders. Vintage textiles, expressionistic flowers, lascivious imagery all speak within the same language to Lari’s additional identity as a queer male artist.

Lari Pittman, This Wholesomeness, Beloved and Despised, Continues Regardless, 1990

“Pittman generally works alone in the studio and has described painting as a physical activity that involves his entire body. His paintings are created without preliminary sketches, and their large scale mirrors the outsized, complex, and even mythic ideas that inform them. In contrast, his works on paper are more intimate and graphic, featuring fewer objects and a more pronounced flattening of illusionistic space. Still lushly colored and decorated, they offer a quieter counterpart to his paintings. A selection of these drawings spanning Pittman’s career comprises Orangerie, a stand-alone installation that provides an intimate space for viewing his works on paper.”

Lari Pittman, Compassion (Memento Mori), 1985


Lari Pittman, Untitled #8 (The Dining Room), 2005

If you would like to delve deeper into the world that is Lari Pittman, you can read THIS extraordinary Los Angeles Times article by Carolina Miranda for a much deeper understanding of Lari and Lari’s artworks.

Declaration of Independence is organized by the Hammer Museum’s Chief Curator Connie Butler and Curatorial Assistant Vanessa Arizmendi. Check Related Programs on the Hammer’s website for events associated with the exhibition. The exhibition will run from September 29, 2019 to January 5, 2020.

Following its run at the Hammer, Lari Pittman: Declaration of Independence will travel to Kistefos Museet in Jevnaker, Norway, from May 24 – Oct. 5. 2020.

Lari Pittman with the scale model replicating the layout of his upcoming Hammer Museum retrospective.(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)