Every Word Is Underlined, 1986

Raymond Pettibon’s (Tucson, Arizona, 1954) works are characterised by a spontaneous and rather frenetic style of drawing and by the inclusion of hand-written texts which are apparently unconnected to the drawing, but enclose a strong critical element related to the real subject of the work. And so the artist himself places equal value on the texts and the drawing itself, understanding it as a whole that allows the spectator to glimpse the inner activity of his mind.

As his first inspiration, Pettibon takes elements and icons of popular culture which he expresses alongside ideas drawn from his own vivid imagination so that, through his drawings, he can satirise society and criticise the hypocrisy of humanity, the social conventions and public facade which hide the unacceptable reality of what goes on in private. That is why the subjects dealt with in his works are mainly sex, violence, religion, relations, art and the world around him, represented through different iconographic elements taken from reality: Bibles and prophets, politicians, high speed locomotives, cosmic explosions, baseball players, the waves of the sea or surfers catching a wave, etc., which appear repeatedly throughout his work and become his signs of identity.

Pettibon’s work draws on many different sources, from classic and contemporary artists and writers to comics, Hollywood screenplays, the punk and rock scene or newspapers and magazines. For example, the strong overtones of criticism of contemporary society and the apathy of its politicians that emanate from his works remind us of the work of artists like Mike Kelley and Paul McCarthy. Visually we find influences from Goya’s black paintings, Daumier’s cartoons, Hopper’s realism or German expressionism, whilst in his texts we find quotations and references to works by Ruskin, Joyce or Henry James.

Pettibon reinvents one of the oldest art techniques in the world: ink on paper. Since his first drawings in black and white with scribbled inscriptions from the early 80s, his work has evolved towards larger drawings, more complex and coloured, with a lot of texts, always hand-written, which give the impression of being different voices competing for the spectator’s attention.

To approach Pettibon’s work we need to look at it all, understanding it as a whole and placing each work in a context and in relation to the others. In that way, we search for a thread, though on occasion the result is a tangle of fragmented narratives.

Technical details

Original title:
Every Word Is Underlined
Registration number:
Pettibon, Raymond
Date created:
Date acquired:
MACBA Collection. MACBA Foundation
Object type:
Ink on paper
MACBA Collection. MACBA Foundation
© Raymond Pettibon
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Accessibility resources
Audio description

The MACBA Collection features Catalan, Spanish and international art and, although it includes works from the 1920s onwards, its primary focus is on the period between the 1960s and the present.

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