Raymond Pettibon (b. 1957)
Raymond Pettibon (b. 1957)

No Title (The Lower Half...)

Raymond Pettibon (b. 1957)
No Title (The Lower Half...)
signed and dated 'Raymond Pettibon 2013' (on the reverse)
acrylic, ink and pastel on paper
54¾ x 102¾ in. (139 x 260.9 cm.)
Executed in 2013.
Courtesy of the artist, Regen Projects, Los Angeles and David Zwirner, New York/London


Raymond Pettibon's work looks to a variety of sources and explores several territories including the Southern California counter-movement of the late 1960s, the punk-rock milieu that formed in the late 1970s and 1980s and present-day artistic discourse. It is in his work that Pettibon creates a visual polyphony that embraces the language of abstract expressionism, pop-art, and post-modern aesthetics, setting forth a personal itinerary with a dynamic and highly imaginative expression.

In No Title (The Lower Half...), a wave of gigantic proportions forms a high, foamy peak against a flat, dark-blue ocean with no land visible on the horizon. Coupled with the visually striking wave, composed of innumerous thick strokes varying in intensity and hue, his work can be seen as a sublime, graphic snapshot of the artist's compelling grace. The power and importance of his drawing lie in the beauty and dynamism of the curvilinear form, outlining a delicate and expansive seascape.

Born in 1957, Pettibon grew up on the California West Coast, where he still lives and has deep roots in the Californian region. The appeal of its familiar and artistic context is quintessential to his attitude and the further articulation of his artistic liberation. He developed his easily-recognizable visual style in the late 1970s with highly stylized drawings that incorporates text found in literature, media, as well as his own original writings. Like Ed Ruscha, Pettibon considers text an important element which transforms his art making into a process of self-identification with the world, of establishing a correlation between his personal view and the public discourse.

While there is always a story behind Pettibon's work, there is often a sarcastic and humoristic element in the his choice of words, lending a defining juxtaposition to his various subjects, whether sport stars, celebrities, politicians, policemen, or anonymous American citizens. These narrative panels create worlds parallel to everyday reality and establish themselves as believable in spite of the impossible metaphors to common life. As more text has been incorporated into his drawings over the years, they have in turn become increasingly painterly and colorful. Drawing with a delicacy that is far beyond the efforts of his contemporaries, Pettibon continues a tradition of cultural commentary exemplified by artists such as Francisco Goya and Honoré Daumier in the late 18th and 19th centuries. His talented draftsmanship, combined convincingly with the cartoonlike, economical style of his representations, speaks swiftly and freely about contemporary culture.
Popular American sports like baseball, basketball, and surfing occupy much of Pettibon's oeuvre, but their inclusion within his work has more to do with their mythological signifiers than with a personal obsession. On surfing, more specifically, Pettibon has noted that his interest is to a large degree visual, despite having grown up near the California coast. "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."