The Story of the Icon

A drawing from Raymond Pettibon’s The Observable World (1985).
From Raymond Pettibon: The Books 1978–1998
A drawing from Raymond Pettibon’s The Observable World (1985).


Raymond Pettibon: The Books 1978-1998
By Raymond Pettibon
Edited by Roberto Ohrt
D.A.P., 898 pp., $75 hardcover, $50 paper
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The book denies the reader the white-space fetishism, the glossy expenditure of so many Art Books. It's small and dense, like a case study. Its claustrophobic layout encapsulates one in a manic journey, a Fantastic Voyage through Pettibon's icon-infested brain. One begins to feel affection for the repeated images, to smile as hippie after hippie jumps off the top of a building in glorious free fall, their hair whooshing upward like flames. Despite its cost, the book looks cheap, affordable, made for an audience of fans ready for a convention where they can dress up as acid-crazed Manson chicks, J. Edgar Hoover in headphones, giant black cocks. It's a book so big that if it fell on your head during an earthquake it would kill you.

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