artist / participant


press release

Lari Pittman - Declaration of Independence
September 29, 2019–January 5, 2020

The Hammer Museum presents Lari Pittman: Declaration of Independence, the most comprehensive retrospective to date of the work of American artist Lari Pittman (b. 1952, Los Angeles). A prolific painter and sharp social critic, Pittman has been a strong presence in both the international sphere and the L.A. art community. From his earliest experiments with collage and decoration, to the iconic paintings he produced in response to the AIDS crisis and culture wars of the 1990s, to his more recent mural-scale paintings and symbolic, stylized paintings of textiles paired with portraits, Pittman’s works have remained prescient, incisive and exquisitely rendered. This exhibition will include approximately 80 paintings and 50 works on paper drawn from the Hammer’s own holdings as well as from many public and private collections throughout the world. On view September 29, 2019–January 5, 2020, Lari Pittman: Declaration of Independence marks the first time the Hammer Museum has ever devoted all of its major exhibition spaces to a single living artist.

Pittman’s highly detailed works on panel and paper—grand tales about love, sex, death, art, and citizenship—feature a rich visual language that he has developed over the course of his career, replete with owls, Victorian silhouettes, flying text, and exaggerated and sexualized bodies. This blend of densely painted surfaces and codified references to sexuality and other charged topics, such as the history of racial violence in the United States, aligned his works with the discourse surrounding the contested body in the early 1990s. In recent years Pittman has moved inward, depicting memories, subjects related to his own extensive history as a collector of Mexican craft and artifacts, and a diverse range of artistic influences. These paintings function as rich dreamscapes and provide insight into the artist’s psyche.

Pittman’s drawings offer a quieter counterbalance to his paintings. The works on paper are more intimate and graphic, featuring fewer objects and a more pronounced flattening of illusionistic space. A selection of drawings spanning Pittman’s career will comprise Orangerie, a stand-alone installation that provides an intimate space for viewing his works on paper. Also on view are the artist’s recent books, which feature unique paintings on paper.

Lari Pittman: Declaration of Independence surveys more than 30 years of work and will be organized chronologically, highlighting several bodies of work in depth as well as featuring the artist’s monumental, mural-size paintings.

The exhibition is organized by Connie Butler, chief curator, with Vanessa Arizmendi, curatorial assistant.

Following its presentation at the Hammer, the exhibition will travel to Kistefos Museet in Jevnaker, Norway, May 24–October 5, 2020.

Exhibition catalogue
The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue following Lari Pittman’s trajectory as one of the most prolific and exuberant painters of the past three decades. Published by Delmonico Books, this exhibition catalogue features over 80 paintings and 50 drawings, including Pittman’s mural-scale series "Flying Carpets". Alongside these illustrations are essays by Connie Butler, with contributions by George Baker, Helen Molesworth, Donatien Grau, and Duro Olowu, as well as a selected chronology by Vanessa Arizmendi. The catalogue places Pittman’s imagery within both Modernism and recent histories of Los Angeles, and examines his works’ political commentary as well as their many literary references.

Lari Pittman: Declaration of Independence is made possible by lead funding from Alice and Nahum Lainer.