The award was announced Wednesday by the Whitney Museum of American Art.
The Bucksbaum award, the world's largest prize for visual arts, is given biennially to support an artist chosen from the Whitney Biennial exhibition.
The current biennial, in which Pettibon, of Hermosa Beach, Calif., is represented by a room-size installation of his wall drawings, opened last month and will run through May 30.
The award citation said the 47-year-old artist "creates a highly personalized universe with a few recurrent themes and characters," noting that his monochromatic drawings combine visual and literary information that bring together image and text in sometimes ironic or sinister ways.
Pettibon's imagery includes trains, baseball players, villains, nuclear explosions, surfers, Elvis Presley, J. Edgar Hoover, Vavoom from "Felix the Cat," and Gumby, a claymation cartoon character. His literary references include William Blake, Henry James, John Ruskin, Mickey Spillane, and the Bible.
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