Since the 1970s, Los Angeles–based artist Raymond Pettibon has created a vocabulary of symbols that reappear consistently if enigmatically across his oeuvre. These range from baseball players, vixens, light bulbs, and railway trains to the cartoon character Gumby and infamous murderer Charles Manson. But the most poetic and revealing of Pettibon’s symbols may be the surfer, the solitary longboarder challenging a massive wave. In his “surfer paintings,” viewers ride along with a counterculture existentialist hero who perhaps is the artist’s nearest proxy. Almost all of the works included in this volume depict an ocean roiling with chaotic swells, accompanied by non-sequiturs, quotations, and bits of poetry in the artist’s handwriting.
Born in 1957 in Tucson, Arizona, and now based in New York, Raymond Pettibon graduated with a degree in economics from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1977. Around the same time, he joined his brother in the punk band Black Flag and contributed artwork for their album covers, flyers, and t-shirts, as well as for their label, SST Records. His work has been exhibited widely throughout the United States and abroad, at venues including the Kunstmuseum Luzern, Lucerne, Switzerland (2012); Kestnergesellschaft, Hanover (2007); Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna; Centro de Arte Contemporáneo de Málaga, Spain (both 2006); Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, La Jolla, California; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (both 2005). In 1998, his first American museum presentation was organized by The Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago in collaboration with the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and traveled to The Drawing Center, New York and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Pettibon’s work is held in the permanent collections of the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Hamburger Bahnhof - Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin; The Israel Museum, Jerusalem; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Tate Gallery, London; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; among others.