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