Lari Pittman was born in Los Angeles, California in 1952. Pittman received both a BFA (1974) and an MFA (1976) from California Institute of the Arts, Valencia. Inspired by commercial advertising, folk art, and decorative traditions, his meticulously layered paintings transform pattern and signage into luxurious scenes fraught with complexity, difference, and desire. In a manner both visually gripping and psychologically strange, Pittman’s hallucinatory works reference myriad aesthetic styles, from Victorian silhouettes to social realist murals to Mexican retablos. Pittman uses anthropomorphic depictions of furniture, weapons, and animals, loaded with symbolism, to convey themes of romantic love, violence, and mortality. His paintings and drawings are a personal rebellion against rigid, puritanical dichotomies. They demonstrate the complementary nature of beauty and suffering, pain and pleasure, and direct the viewer’s attention to bittersweet experiences and the value of sentimentality in art. Despite subject matter that changes from series to series, Pittman’s deployment of simultaneously occurring narratives and opulent imagery reflects the rich heterogeneity of American society, the artist’s Colombian heritage, and the distorting effects of hyper-capitalism on everyday life.
Pittman has received many awards, including a Pacific Design Center Stars of Design Award (2004); the Skowhegan Medal (2002); and three fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts (1987, 1989, 1993). He has had major exhibitions at the Institute of Contemporary Art, London (1998); Los Angeles County Museum of Art (1996); and Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston (1996). He has participated in the Venice Biennale (2003); Documenta X (1997); and three Whitney Biennials (1993, 1995, 1997). Pittman lives and works in Los Angeles.