Point Break: Raymond Pettibon, Surfers and Waves


“All this must be either surfed or painted”: This is the underlying sentiment behind Raymond Pettibon’s iconic paintings of surfers and waves in this quintessential volume dedicated to the motif.


ISBN: 9781644230350 Category:

Raymond Pettibon, Jamie Brisick


Pettibon is known for his characteristically youthful aesthetic and sharply satirical critique of American culture. Though drenched in cynicism, his work empathizes with the dizzying madness of our own humanity as it engages both so-called high and low culture. Perhaps most poetic of the many motifs present in Pettibon’s oeuvre is the surfer. In 1985 Pettibon began Surfers–a series he continues to work on to this day–popular for its depiction of the lone surfer silently carving “a line of beauty,” along an impossibly large wave.

This publication traces a selection of one hundred surfers from the series, from smaller monochromatic works on paper to colorful large-scale paintings applied directly to the wall. For Pettibon’s protagonist in these works-his countercultural hero-surfing exists apart from all else. Momentarily he achieves sublimity on the wave, distant yet synced with turbulent reality. We are forced to confront our own scale: small and feeble in the face of so much sublime power. Pettibon’s lyrical writings on these painted surfaces-both his own and taken from literature-reference his own philosophies and the confusions of reality-he critiques the hypocrisies and vanities of the world he engages. To help navigate, the renowned New Yorker writer and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life, William Finnegan, perfectly distills the transcendent nature and lack thereof in Pettibon’s work.

Additional information

Weight 1528 g
Dimensions 26 x 32.3 cm
Publisher name David Zwirner Books
Publication date 26 July 2022
Number of pages 160
Format Hardback
Dimensions 26 x 32.3 cm
Weight 1528 g


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Raymond Pettibon's work embraces a wide spectrum of American high and low culture, from art history, religion, politics, and literature to sexuality, the deviations of marginal youth, and sports. Taking their point of departure from the Southern California punk-rock scene of the late 1970s and 1980s, and the do-it-yourself aesthetic of album covers, comics, concert flyers, and fanzines that characterized the movement, his drawings have come to occupy their own genre of powerful and dynamic artistic commentary. He was born in 1957 in Tucson, Arizona, and lives and works in New York.

Jamie Brisick's books include Have Board, Will Travel: The Definitive History of Surf, Skate, and Snow (2021), Becoming Westerly: Surf Champion Peter Drouyn's Transformation into Westerly Windina (2015), The Eighties at Echo Beach (2011), and We Approach Our Martinis With Such High Expectations (2002). His writings and photographs have appeared in The Surfer's Journal, The New Yorker, The New York Times, and The Guardian. In 2008 he was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship. He lives in Los Angeles.