Raymond Pettibon - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Wednesday, November 17, 2021 | Phillips

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    "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



    Installation view of Raymond Pettibon: A Pen of All Work, New Museum, New York, February 8 – April 9, 2017. Artwork: © Raymond Pettibon, Courtesy the artist and David Zwirner



    Spanning eight feet in length, Raymond Pettibon’s No Title (Let him come...), 2011, is a definitive example of the artist’s most well-known Surfer series. Drawing from a vast range of influences, from global history to baseball, American politics to literature and comics, film noir to surfing, Pettibon’s works examine the values of American culture. Showcasing his signature interplay between image and text, the present work also features his virtuosic graphic handling. Here, a surfer faces a majestic wave rendered in electrifying streaks of blues, greens, yellows, purples and black. A galvanic sky fills up the composition through his swirling gestural brushstroke, oscillating between impastoed and flatter application to suggest atmosphere. At once inspiring awe and terror, the scene conjures the sublime of nature and man’s seeming conquest, freezing in time what may be an inevitable fate or a miraculous feat.



    "It had been his odd fortune to blow upon the deep waters, to make them surge and break in waves of
    strange eloquence…"
    —Henry James



    Cy Twombly, Hero and Leandro [Part I]: [A Painting in Four Parts], 1984. Private Collection, Artwork: © Cy Twombly Foundation



    The Scribe and the Draughtsman


    A self-taught artist, Pettibon found inspiration in the drawings by artists including Francisco Goya, William Blake, Honoré Daumier, Edward Hopper, and John Sloan in forming his own unique style. His distinctive artistic vernacular of coalescing pen and ink figuration with hand-inscribed text perhaps looks to Blake as a strong historic mentor, particularly in the poetic nature of his thought-provoking verbiage that accompanies his imagery. In No Title (Let him come...), the artist tucks in script in the lower left of the composition and another in the seafoam on the brink of collapse, their humble existence betraying their encompassing gravity. By incorporating his Henry James-esque words, Pettibon displays the hand of a draughtsman crossed with a scribe’s knack for language, striding between lyrical wit and irony, historical reflection and contemporary consumer culture.



    "I like art where you can see the struggle in making
    the work."
    —Raymond Pettibon





    From short quips to countless strokes, painterly-like sky to graphic sea, spontaneous splotches and drips to calculated mark-making, the present work draws the viewer into scanning the entire composition for its strikingly variable rendering. The body of the rising wave suggests the glimmering reflection of the bright rays of the sun upon it, only by Pettibon’s deft touches of white over the psychedelic array of colors. Upon a closer look, here he has also paid meticulous attention to his miniscule surfer, as in the detailed rendering of his torso, the sunshine off the surfboard, and even the play of light and shadow on the figure’s body.



    Sourcing the Sublime


    “Waves. To me, it’s natural,” Pettibon replied when asked about his favorite theme to draw. “It’s imagery that, for a lot of people around here anyway, is pornography…Each time I don’t know how it’s going to look, like it’s an ordeal or a challenge.”i On the subject of placing surfers amidst these giant swells, he explained, “I grew up near the beach. Violence at the shoreline can be worse than street violence sometimes. Local surfers are despised and hated by most other surfers throughout the world. There are good days, but if the waves aren’t coming, you’re sitting on the sand and praying for surf all year. Then you go and poach other people’s breaks.”ii



    [left] Milton Avery, Lone Rock and Surf, 1945. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, Image: © Whitney Museum of American Art / Licensed by Scala / Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © 2021 Milton Avery Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York [right] Katsushika Hokusai, The Great Wave at Kanagawa (from a Series of Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji), circa 1930-1832. Metropolitan Museum of Art, Image: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Image source: Art Resource, NY



    Capturing the artist's inclination towards the subject matter, No Title (Let him come...) also evokes Edmund Burke’s inquiring vision about nature’s sublime. “Whatever is fitted in any sort to excite the ideas of pain, and danger, that is to say, whatever is in any sort terrible, or is conversant about terrible objects, or operates in a manner analogous to terror, is a source of the sublime; that is, it is productive of the strongest emotion which the mind is capable of feeling,” Burke expressed. “When danger or pain press too nearly, they are incapable of giving any delight, and [yet] with certain modifications, they may be, and they are delightful, as we every day experience.”iii





    i Raymond Pettibon, quoted in Nicholas Gazin, “Raymond Pettibon,” Vice Magazine, October 31, 2011.

    ii Ibid.

    iii Edmund Burke, A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful, London, 1812, pp. 58-59.

    • Provenance

      Regen Projects, Los Angeles
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

Surfing USA: A Selection of Works by Raymond Pettibon


No Title (Let him come...)

signed and dated "Raymond Pettibon 2011" on the reverse
pen, ink, gouache and acrylic on paper
51 3/4 x 97 in. (131.4 x 246.4 cm)
Executed in 2011.

Full Cataloguing

$1,500,000 - 2,000,000 

Sold for $3,418,000

Contact Specialist

Amanda Lo Iacono
New York Head of Department & Head of Auctions
+1 212 940 1278

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 17 November 2021