I’ve been in a little bit of a rut lately. Maybe it’s that last-bit-of-winter funk, or the fact that Justin and I recently both caught a nasty bug that knocked us off our feet. But we’ve been opting for quieter weekends at home, leaving us scurrying to catch up with all the museum exhibitions we’d previously shortlisted. One of those was A Pen of All Work by Raymond Pettibon at the New Museum.
We vaguely knew Pettibon’s work from his time covering the Los Angeles punk scene, but we had no real concept of the breadth of his portfolio until we got there. Hundreds of drawings occupy three floors of the museum. Due to the sheer volume of work, the curators chose not to display the art chronologically, and most are without descriptive plaques. Instead, the exhibition is organized thematically, with a floor dedicated to war and politics, and other sections depicting such widely varied subjects as baseball, surfing or cathedrals. And don’t expect the displays to be linear, images are stacked above each other in random groupings, some are framed while others are tacked directly to the walls. The erratic nature speaks to Pettibon’s style.
Pettibon was a fan of combining images with text, with some of the wording added years after the drawing or painting was complete. The museum guide accurately warned that reading the text may not assist in understanding the art, but in fact, might create greater confusion.
Some people argue that great art should elicit a response without the need for explanation, but struggling to understand the work can be exhausting. I vacillated between admiration and frustration, intrigue and confusion. A great deal of inference and interpretation can be made, and that can be a rewarding experience if you connect with the art. There was an obsessive nature and tinge of darkness that, admittedly, played to my current state of mind. Many pieces were provocative, but the treatment of taboo subjects didn’t feel purposely sensational. Pettibon is also a prolific artist, so his topical images take you on quite a historical trip.
I’ll be the first to admit that the exhibition isn’t for everyone. And I suspect that if I hadn’t been in a slightly melancholic and disconsolate state, perhaps my experience would have been quite different. (Has that ever happened to you?) But if you can appreciate a strong point of view and enjoy a little bit of tension in your art, then be sure to visit the New Museum before this ends.
A Pen of All Work is on display through April 9.
Tip: On Thursday evenings from 7 p.m.–9 p.m., admission is Pay-What-You-Wish. Free docent tours are available on Wednesday and Friday: 12:30 p.m and Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday: 12:30 p.m. & 3 p.m.
Tuesday & Wednesday 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Thursday 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Friday–Sunday 11 a.m. – 6 p.m
Pair it with:
Lunch at Lighthouse Outpost
There’s no shortage of fantastic eateries in Nolita, and we’ve probably covered a lot of them. Most are popular, with a loyal brunch following waiting to fill the seats every weekend. But once in awhile, you discover a stealth player that caters to the local in-the-know crowds. Lighthouse Outpost is one of those places.
The original Lighthouse is situated in Williamsburg and offers seasonal, locally-sourced fare. Lighthouse Outpost is its Manhattan footprint, taking up just a tiny space on Mulberry St that’s easy to miss. There are only a few counter seats, so don’t plan a group lunch. But whether you decide to eat in at the light-filled spot in the heart of Nolita or get your order to go, the options are excellent. The shakshuka is always a winner, especially for a confessed egg lover. The dry aged grass fed burger with jalapeno, sauteed onions, mayo, onion, cheddar and tomato offers just the right kick, but manages to leave virtually no greasy aftertaste. But the veggie sides are the stars here: the cauliflower with egg, tahini and jalapeno was sublime. A low-key Nolita lunch exists, and you’ll find it here.
241 Mulberry St
Tuesday through Thursday 6 p.m. – 12 a.m.
Friday through Sunday 6 p.m. – 1 a.m.
Saturday through Sunday Brunch 12 p.m. – 4 p.m.