Raymond Pettibon's "Captive Chains"

Raymond Pettibon (born 1957), Captive Chains (Lawndale, Ca.: SST Publications, 1978). Graphic Arts GAX 2010- in process.

California artist Raymond Pettibon has published forty-four zines, 120 fliers, and a variety of album covers, as documented in the 2008 exhibition organized by David Platzker at Specific Object. http://www.specificobject.com/projects/pettibon/index.cfm?project_id=18

The first, entitled Captive Chains (1978) has also been labeled an artists’ book and/or a graphic novel, depending on who is reviewing the material. Pettibon’s early work was published and distributed by SST Records, an imprint established by his brother, Greg Ginn, the guitarist for the punk band Black Flag. The band also used Pettibon’s art for their fliers, album covers and T-shirts, as did other bands that joined the label, including the Minutemen, Hüsker Dü, the Meat Puppets and Sonic Youth.

Since that period, Pettibon has gone on to make a career for himself and his art apart from the California punk scene, including important exhibitions at The Renaissance Society at The University of Chicago, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.

“But my drawing also came out of editorial-style cartoons I was doing at the time. Music was one thing and art was another, and there weren’t really any standards for my art. If you look at old punk album covers they were mainly Russian constructivist or Heartsfield [sic] collages. There was no defined punk look or style. Not in art at least. Maybe in fashion. My work was just drawings, and basically drawings just as I would do now. They weren’t done with any aspirations of becoming a part of that scene.”

See the catalogue raisonné of Pettibon’s artists’ books: Raymond Pettibon: the Books 1978-1998 (New York: D.A.P. Distributed Art Publishers, c2000) Marquand Library (SA) N6537.P393 O3713 2000


Joel J. Rane, Scream at the Librarian: Sketches of Our Patrons in Downtown Los Angeles. Illustrations by Raymond Pettibon and Cristin Sheehan Sullivan ([Brooklyn]: Booklyn Artists Alliance, 2007). Graphic Arts Collection (GAX), 2008-0124N

“This is not autobiographical work, by any means. Even the emotions involved. If someone thinks they understand me and disagree, then okay. But there’s something in the nature of comedy and especially in the element of caricature and cartoons that my work retains. An editorial cartoon is trying to be positive. It’s usually really very cloying and sappy and there’s no hook to it at all. I also don’t like my humor to be in the service of making fun of people based on superficialities. People get picked on or looked down at. I’m conscious about that as a problem.”