Raymond Pettibon, Wave-rider

Raymond Pettibon in the studio. Image Courtesy of Contemporary Art Curator Magazine

"Perhaps most poetic among the many motifs present in Pettibon’s oeuvre is the surfer," notes David Zwirner Gallery upon the 2022 release of Point Break: Raymond Pettibon, Surfers, and Waves. Tracing the iconic artist's Surfer series, which he began in 1985, the volume carves out space to recognize a distinct – and distinctive – area of focus throughout Pettibon's career. Raised amidst the co-mingled punk and surf scenes of Southern California, Pettibon is today considered a foremost poet-prophet of the existential highs and lows of American culture, for which the lone wave-riding surfer may be an apt metaphor. 

Pettibon not only renders the SoCal past time, he enables it: his works can be found on limited edition surf, skim, and skate boards in an ultimate fusion of the gallery and the street – or wave, as the case may be. And here, perhaps, one may find Pettibon at his most buoyant. As Alexxa Gotthardt commented for Artsy, "Even when Pettibon expresses doubt in the face of the sea’s greatness, he also offers evidence of joy, resilience, humility, and—a characteristic mostly absent from his other series—hope." 

There’s the wave itself, which is more a part of the sublime, what we’d call nature…As the wave gets bigger it becomes more about man against nature. One doesn’t conquer either one. Man with nature, I guess. Small waves and big waves are different experiences.

Raymond Pettibon

Raymond Pettibon b. 1957

The younger brother of a guitarist and songwriter for legendary punk band Black Flag, Raymond Pettibon's early history is grounded in the Los Angeles underground music scene. As part of this subculture, Pettibon began to draw graphic, comic-inspired imagery for zines, band fliers, and album artwork. His distinct style combines drawing and text for poetic — and often acerbic — commentary on American pop culture writ large, striking a chord in particular with counter-culturally minded youth of the era. Among the impressive roster of bands that have commissioned the artist for album covers are Sonic Youth, Black Flag, and the Minutemen.

After his first gallery show in 1984, Pettibon continued to gain recognition beyond the locus of the SoCal punk scene, and was notably included in Paul Schimmel's 1992 Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles exhibition Helter Skelter: L.A. Art in the 1990s. Just one year later, in 1993, his work was featured in the Whitney Biennial.

Upcoming Lots Raymond Pettibon

Auction Results Raymond Pettibon