Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Raymond Pettibon: Making Waves

Venus over Manhattan has assembled forty ‘surfer works’ created between 1985 and 2013 by California-based artist Raymond Pettibon. Inked across one of the works is the line “SOME THINGS (SEA FOAM, FOR INSTANCE) CANNOT BE DRAWN AT ALL, BUT ONLY SURFED.” While this might sound like a disclaimer, it ends up serving as more of a myth for Pettibon to defy. Impressively, the non-surfer manages with his loose, gestural style to convey, way beyond more realistic renderings, the heart-stopping tininess of the surfer up against a world-obliterating wave.

I’m not sure, but I think it has something to do with how the viewer experiences the paint as water and the rhythmic strokes as waves. The vigor of Pettibon’s marks and the wateriness of the drips impart an immediacy that lets you see the big picture and be inside it at the same time, something not possible with a more photographic approach. In effect, this allows Pettibon to work both the wide-angle lens and the zoom in one frame. The comic book-style freefloating thoughts and phrases, add yet another level of intimacy, placing the viewer inside the head of the speck inside the monster curl. 

“Are Your Motives Pure? / Raymond Pettibon Surfers 1985-2013” is on view through May 17.

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