"In addition to being an extraordinary painter, Lari has been an important figure in the Los Angeles art community for the past four decades as both artist and teacher. He has influenced generations of artists as a professor in UCLA’s art department, and is part of a generation of artists who emerged internationally in the 1990s." said Hammer Director Ann Philbin. “His paintings confront history, politics, violence, and sexuality in a highly aestheticized manner that is both exquisitely painted and deeply responsive to the issues of our time."
Pittman’s highly detailed works on panel and paper—grand tales about love, sex, death, art, and citizenship—feature a rich visual language that he has developed over the course of his career, replete with owls, Victorian silhouettes, flying text, and exaggerated and sexualized bodies. These meticulously crafted works have become emblematic of a generation of queer artists who reclaimed ornamentation and lush detail during the 1980s, employing them as part of their political and personal iconography. At the same time Pittman shared the noirish sensibilities of many of his Los Angeles-based, artist peers whose influences included that era’s thriving punk rock scene and the legendary Feminist Art Program at CalArts. In 1992 his work was featured in the critically acclaimed MOCA exhibition Helter Skelter: L.A. Art in the 1990s, along with that of Mike Kelley, Liz Larner, Raymond Pettibon, Jim Shaw, and others. Pittman’s blend of densely painted surfaces and codified references to sexuality and other charged topics, such as the history of racial violence in the United States, aligned his works with the discourse surrounding the contested body in the early 1990s.