Lari Pittman was born in Los Angeles, California, in 1952. Pittman received a BFA (1974) and a MFA (1976) from California Institute of the Arts. 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.
Lari Pittman has had major solo and group exhibitions at museums and galleries around the world, including the St. Louis Contemporary Art Museum (2013); the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (2011); the Portland Art Museum (2010); the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (2006); and the Institute of Contemporary Art, London (1999). He has participated in the Venice Biennale (2003); Documenta X (1997); and three Whitney Biennial exhibitions (1993, 1995, 1997). Major public and private collections have collected his artwork, including the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Sammlung Goetz, Munich; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; the Stedeljk Museum, Amsterdam; The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and the Armand Hammer Museum, Los Angeles.