By Emily Van Malden
Black and white drawings jumped off the vanilla walls of the TCNJ Art Gallery.
These were the dark-noir, never-before-seen works of Raymond Pettibon, an ex-drummer turned powerful artist. The “Raymond Pettibon: Early Drawings” exhibition opened on Wednesday, Jan. 25.
This private collection features the early works of Pettibon, who started his drawing career by creating album art for his punk rock band, Black Flag.
From afar, these works appear harmless, simple depictions of everyday life. It isn’t until a viewer gets up close and personal with the art that one can read the words etched onto the paper in ink.
“You don’t expect (the artwork) to be as provocative as it is,” said Emily Croll, director of the gallery and coordinator of the exhibit.
An example of this provocativeness is a drawing of Jesus that hangs on the far left wall. At first glance, it appears to be a simple portrait, but closer inspection reveals the words “Cross and have done with it, you are safe — and I am desolate.”
President of the Art Student Association and senior graphic design major, Lindsey Hardifer, said that because Pettibon uses jarring text and images in all of his works, he “forces the viewer to find a relationship between the words and the drawing.”
Croll agreed and further described Pettibon’s style as a “disjuncture of words and images and meaning.”
“If anything, his message is that there shouldn’t be one message,” she said.
This theme is supported by the fact that all of Pettibon’s drawings are left untitled, leaving viewers to come up with their own explanation.
According to Croll, this theme is reinforced by the presence of many different symbols throughout the exhibition, ranging from violence and unrest to religion and mobility.
Croll noticed one common thread connecting this — Pettibon’s love of infinite motion, which can be seen in his drawings of stark moving trains as well as his surfers and baseball players, always in mid-stride.
The exhibition also includes a video projected on the wall, made by Pettibon.
For this, Pettibon animated some of his earlier works together, with words thrown onto the screen. The narration of the video creates even more discord with the simultaneously presented images
“The Raymond Pettibon: Early Drawings Exhibit” will be open until Feb. 29 after which the “Illuminating Date: Visualizing the Information that Moves Our World” will open in mid-March.