Raymond Pettibon - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale - Afternoon Session New York Thursday, November 18, 2021 | Phillips
  • Raymond Pettibon is widely recognized as one of America’s most inventive representational artists, known for his ink wash drawings combined with text. Pettibon grew up in Hermosa Beach, California, a location implicit to the subject matter of his work its enduring themes. Growing up at the pinnacle of the counter-culture and late punk-rock movements, his upbringing would become indelible to his work. He was only 12 years old during 1969, which marked a true turning point in pop culture. The changing Hollywood landscape of this time undoubtedly inspired his early work, such as album covers for bands like Black Flag and Sonic Youth. Eventually, he began culling from every corner of American popular and underground culture for his drawings: comics, film noir, baseball, organized religion, figures of rock and roll, Ronald Reagan, Charles Manson, and more. But Pettibon didn’t just passively observe—these subject matters spoke to him because of what they revealed about society. Instead of glorifying these themes, he critiqued them. 


    Leroy Grannis

    This outlook is no more apparent than in Pettibon’s drawings of surfers, a trademark motif in the artist’s oeuvre. When the novelist-critic Denis Cooper asked Pettibon what draws him towards the surfers, Pettibon answered, “Sometimes it is a visual interest, but it can also be the way something like surfing describes a society, and the people in it. I’ve done a lot of large drawings and prints of that imagery. It has that epic nature, that sublime nature that almost asks you to reproduce it full sized on the wall.”1 Untitled (The view from beyond the breakers), 1988-1994, and No Title (When I went), 2001, each depict turbulent waves rendered in soft, fluid brushstrokes varying in thickness and in hue. The works show a lone surfer taking on the ocean, the two differing drastically in how the wave unfurls—breaking into white caps in The view from beyond the breakers and rolling calmly amidst a blue sky dotted with clouds in When I went.


    In the mid to late 1980s, the textual aspect of Pettibon’s compositions grew. The artist is a somewhat inconsistent but razor-sharp linguist in tone and source. These sources include statements, digressions, musings, exclamations, and cut-and-paste appropriations gleaned from a panoply of authors, journalists, mystics, and his own poetry or remembrances. In some cases, the text is acutely relative, while in others, it seems entirely non-sequitur.

    "…Therefore whatever you are—that is, whatever the substance by which you are what you are, I am nine-tenths the water…"

    In When I went, Pettibon punctuates the sheet with even more text, featuring a lengthy paragraph in pulled from “Seascape, with Frieze of Girls,” a chapter from Marcel Proust’s Albertine. In the bottom left corner is a quote from an essay by John Dryden, a 17th-century English poet: “Like an ill swimmer, I have willingly stayed long in my own depth.” The collection of references employed in this work suggest that the surfer, or swimmer, has succumbed to the power of the crashing wave, choosing not to fight against the current. Here Pettibon’s text is poetic, pointed, and somewhat perverse, calling the viewer to think about their unique position to society. As Robert Storr wrote, “Pettibon has thus distilled a unique, instantly recognizable style equally capable conveying of impudence, spleen and rapture.”2


    1 Denis Cooper, “Interview: Dennis Cooper in conversation with Raymond Pettibon,” in Raymond Pettibon, New York, 2001, p. 25
    2 Robert Storr, “’You Are What you Read’: Words and Pictures by Raymond Pettibon,” in Raymond Pettibon, New York, 2001, p. 60.

    • Provenance

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

Surfing USA: A Selection of Works by Raymond Pettibon


No Title (When I went)

signed and dated "Raymond Pettibon 2001" on the reverse
pen and ink on paper
22 1/2 x 30 in. (57.2 x 76.2 cm)
Executed in 2001.

Full Cataloguing

$300,000 - 400,000 

Sold for $877,000

Contact Specialist

Rebekah Bowling
Head of Day Sale, Afternoon Session, New York
1 212 940 1250

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale - Afternoon Session

New York Auction 18 November 2021