Raymond Pettibon - Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Wednesday, February 15, 2012 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Private Collection, Europe

  • Catalogue Essay

    Raymond Pettibon grew up on the Californian West Coast in the 1960s and 70s where he found inspiration in the culture of comics, album covers, concert flyers and posters of the time. This formed the bedrock of his work as an artist which is driven by themes from American popular culture ranging from literature, sports, religion, art, music, politics and counter culture. His works often incorporate handwritten text, often adding an ironic or negative tone to the imagery.

    Pettibon works almost exclusively on paper, making the current lot Untitled (Surfer) a rare and very fine example of a work on canvas. It depicts one of his most familiar themes, that of the surfer. Pettibon explains that the portrayal of popular sports, like baseball and surfing, have a psychological connotation for him over and above the merely descriptive: “Sometimes it is a visual interest, but it can also be the way something like surfing describes a society, and the people in it… It has that epic nature, that sublime nature that almost asks you to reproduce it full-sized on the wall. So there are some images where I have reasons like that to do them again and again… here’s a reason why I’m going to use them a lot. It’s what they represent to me” (The artist in conversation with Dennis Cooper, in Raymond Pettibon, New York, 2001, p. 25).

    The present work depicts the ultimate, gigantic curling wave, at its foamy peak and about to break. And within it, there is a surfer on a longboard, dwarfed by the wave and apparently about to be consumed by it. The water is beautifully painted with loose brushstrokes in vivid and deep hues of green and blue, topped by delicate and voluptuous white and light-blue foam. This beauty and peacefulness of the moment for the surfer is juxtaposed by the vivacity and turbulence of the ferocious moment of its breaking. This descriptive scene is punctuated by Pettibon’s trademark handwritten text, with, for example, lines from the Book of Genesis (about the Flood), and the Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of the word ‘natural’. With this, the representation acquires something of a double-edged meaning, on the one hand it is a vividly painted scene from nature, on the other the picture enters a defined and historical, even mythic dimension.

    In the vastness of the Pacific, which covers the entire canvas with no horizon visible, the surfer looks minute – on the one hand portraying the surfers’ ‘you and the wave-feeling’ and on the other hand making the viewer aware of the power distribution of humanity versus the vastness of nature, the individual versus society.

    “[There’s] one reason I do a lot of … surfing drawings – they have a very fluid nature. You can cut through the fluidity and movement without resorting to cartoony or gimmicky lines. It’s all pretty much there already”. (Grady Turner in conversation with Raymond Pettibon, BOMB 69, Fall 1999)


Untitled (The view from beyond the breakers)

c. 1988-94
Oil on canvas.
61 x 76.2 cm (24 x 30 in).
Signed 'Raymond Pettibon' on the reverse.

£80,000 - 120,000 

Sold for £157,250

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

16 February 2012