For our new series, we aim to expand up your zine knowledge by asking writers about their favorite smaller publications. This week, Riot of Perfume’s Editor-in-Chief Eugenie Dalland visted the private collection of rare books and publications at Fulton Ryder, where she landed on a classic yet disturbing collection of Raymond Pettibon’s early work.
The first time I encountered a Raymond Pettibon drawing was on the cover of Sonic Youth’s 1991 album “Goo” when I was approximately 6 years old. While it didn’t leave any kind of profound impact, I remember being shocked by the text that accompanied the now hyper-iconic image: “I stole my sister’s boyfriend. It was all whirlwind, heat, and flash. Within a week we killed my parents and hit the road.” While my initial reaction was indeed that of a mystified child, it is that same quality of bewilderment that continues to make his work so effective today—as well as jolt viewers of all ages.
Pettibon was one of the most notable figures of the Southern Californian punk rock scene of the late 1970s and early 1980s, and his artistic career started with a bang when he designed, among other printed material, the logo for Black Flag (of which he was a founding member). From the beginning Pettibon was an iconoclast, no doubt partly because of his longstanding involvement with the punk music scene. His pen-and-ink drawings are predominantly steeped in counter-culture, with work featuring themes that range from sexuality to suicide, violence to religion.
In addition to the numerous flyers, handbills and posters that he made for Black Flag and other bands of the time, Pettibon began a series of zines beginning in 1981 that featured his singular illustrations accompanied by his fatalist, disjointed quips. Among these unique titles (“Like Death Valley,” “Freud's Universe,” and “Asbestos” are but a few) is “Tripping Corpse,” which spanned six issues until 1985. The content of the zine often reflected Pettibon’s fantastic and dark sense of humor. Included were original drawings by Pettibon, psychedelic translations of Allen Ginsberg, ironic articles on politics, concert reviews, and beguiling interviews with individuals listed only by their first name. Many of these remarkable zines were destroyed, but a recent acquisition of 30 or so copies by the gallery-cum-publisher Fulton Ryder granted me the opportunity to review Tripping Corpse issues 1-6 first hand. Pages are filled with uncensored interviews with Black Flag, Sonic Youth, and Heavy Balloon, and his signature, wonderfully morose illustrations.
Tripping Corpse embodies a punk attitude that young publishers today would do well to emulate: on the cover of the zine’s second issue, Pettibon scrawls, “Zap the businessman and steal a copy!”