Lot 121
  • 121

Raymond Pettibon

50,000 - 70,000 GBP
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  • Raymond Pettibon
  • Untitled (Going with the Flow...)
  • signed and dated '00 on the reverse
  • ink, acrylic and watercolour on paper
  • 59.7 by 45.7 cm. 23 1/2 by 18 in.


Private Collection, Europe
Phillips, London, 13 October 2010, Lot 48
Acquired from the above by the present owner


Colour: The colours in the catalogue illustration are fairly accurate, although the overall tonality is deeper and more vibrant in the original. Condition: This work is in very good condition. The sheet is attached verso to the mount in several places. The upper edge is irregularly cut, and there are some light handling creases along the horizontal edges. The sheet undulates slightly.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Since his emergence on the art scene in the 1980s, Pettibon has conceived an idiosyncratic vocabulary of symbols relating to American culture which reappear consistently throughout his oeuvre. Initially creating drawings for fliers and album covers to promote Punk musicians in Los Angeles, his inspiration ranges from history, literature, sports, music, religion, politics and sexuality. But the most poetic and iconic of Pettibon’s symbols is the surfer: Executed in 2000, Untitled (Going with the Flow...) features the artist’s leitmotif of a solitary surfer challenging a massive wave. Having introduced colour into his drawings during the 1990s, in the present work the ocean is painted with loose brushstrokes in vivid and deep hues of blue with hints of red and chaotic swells of white foam. The surfer, traversing the great expanse of the wave, is dwarfed by the towering wall of water. With no land visible on the horizon, the churning sea consumes the picture plane and even in the smallest of his drawings the scale is daunting.    

Living and working in Southern California since the 1970s, surfing has featured greatly in Pettibon’s life. Yet the inclusion of surfing, a theme which occupies much of the artist’s creative output, goes beyond a personal obsession and has a deeper significance. The artist explains that "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" (Raymond Pettibon in conversation with Dennis Cooper, in: Robert Storr, Raymond Pettibon, London 2001, p. 25). In the present work, the small thrill seeker riding the impressive wave depicts a scene of humanity facing the vastness of nature, a metaphor for the individual versus society. While Pettibon captures a moment of glory in all its beauty, it is inevitable that the surfer’s triumph is transitory, as fate hovers just beyond the frame and the eventual crash of the wave will engulf him.

Floating above and below the scene are colourful inscriptions in the artist’s iconic handwriting. This distinctive combination of text and image is emblematic of Pettibon’s style, as he often incorporates quotations borrowed from literature spanning centuries and other media, as well as his own writings. In the present lyrical drawing, a quote taken from the writings of the twentieth century Irish poet and novelist James Joyce can be found on the top right. This text refers to Robinson Crusoe, the character from Daniel Defoe’s eponymous novel and one of the most widely published historical fictions, a castaway who spent twenty-seven years on a remote tropical island near Trinidad. These words, alongside the other poetic material Pettibon has chosen to compound with his image, lend new voices to his subject and can shift the meaning, "Going with the flow", by adding a humoristic element to the work. This energetic and vividly painted scene, devoted to the vast force of nature itself, perfectly encapsulates the lyrical heart of Pettibon’s work.