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"The art was hardcore," says Steve Toth of local band Mr. Entertainment and the Pookiesmackers. Toth first saw Pettibon's work in the gatefold of Double Nickels on a Dime, an album by SST band the Minutemen. "It was like an introduction to abstract thinking. Like reading people's thoughts on the paper. You weren't always sure if the character was thinking or saying something."
Black Flag and its fans could always expect to encounter harassment from police, provoked or not. Likewise, the appeal for many "fans" was an oversimplified interpretation of hardcore as fundamentally violent. Thus, eventually and unsurprisingly, Black Flag shows became synonymous with fights and riots.
"There is an inherent violence in the [cut-and-paste method] because of the fact that things are cut apart and reassembled," Landes continues. "It really both literally and physically addresses political upheaval where the frustration level is high enough that individuals feel as though things need to be torn down to be rebuilt. The Reagan/Bush era became the lightning rod for that kind of activity."
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Generally, Pettibon's art provided hilarious and offensive psychological portraits of the period more than promoting the music. There are subtle exceptions, like his flier for Black Flag's "Police Story" that shows a hand pushing a gun into a cop's mouth: The caption bubble reads, "Make me come, faggot." But mostly, he avoided any references to punk. His work was as organic as the music, touching on the same anxieties the music addressed, but each was created independently of the other. (Pettibon's eventual fallout with Ginn resulted from Ginn's disregard for Pettibon's artwork.)
"His work was co-opted in the punk movement, even given his nearness to it," Landes says. "For Pettibon, I see his work as far more subtle and psychological [than other art circulating in the scene]. It actually talked about more than itself and thus began to locate itself more firmly in fine art. I don't think he was as much a willing participant in it as he simply had a kind of artwork that hit the right note with people who were interested in using it. It had a psychological element that lifted it above even while, understandably, people might reject it formally."
"No, it's not as technically proficient," Loose says. "But socially, it draws. You have to look at it, and it's like, 'What the fuck?' "