Ben Brough
Wet N' Wild, 2009
Mixed media on paper

The idea behind SWELL-redux is to strip the flesh off surfing as an artistic inquiry and as a sport, revealing what lies beneath the surface. Surfing has managed to escape the rigorous media analysis that hot rod and motorcycle cultures have received. The art and fiction that has been inspired by surfing has garnered even less intelligent analysis.

In SWELL-redux we consider the disparate outside forces that have conspired to create the culture that creates the art. We get down to the surf and the magnetic forces that shape the myth, a myth that includes art, community, joy, sensuality, and the pure awe of the ocean. SWELL-redux reminds us that as a society we are affected by the absence of idols, and how in surfing we create our own myths. These myths then become stories, painted and written. Stories about ambivalence, dread, fear and thrill.

David Lloyd
The Warrior, 2013
Nick Waplington
SURF RIOT series
Image courtesy of Little Big Man Books
Ashley Bickerton
Orange Shark, 2008
Polyurethane resin, nylon, cotton webbing,stain-less steel, scope, distilled water,
coconuts, rope
60 x 108 x 60 inches
Raymond Pettibon
Dangling mid-air, I hold my Breath, 2012
Courtesy of the artist and Regen Projects

Until now, no one has written about the eroticism of surfing with any depth. In order to understand it, one needs to grasp the cultural ground zero, the source of the surf culture explosion. Southern California, at the time, was dominated by the aerospace industry, which created weapons and missiles as well as the glass and foam for the fantastic plastic fetish objects called surfboards. These surfboards provided the ride for the erotic wet dreams of a global youth culture frantically trying to free itself from the emotionally dead cold war of the 50’s.

An early reading of surf culture is Tom Wolfe’s “The Pump House Gang.” It is, of course, all about teenage angst, misfits and sexuality, but the undercurrent of violence is a central theme. SWELL-redux makes it clear that three wars and the Watts Riots touched everyone that was part of the formative generation of surfing in Southern California. The epicenter of surfing grew out of a military culture and all those marines in the South Pacific brought it back with them, Americanizing what was a Polynesian / Hawaiian cultural practice.

Randall Mesdon
USA Surfboard, 2010
Work on paper
42 x 82 inches.
Raymond Pettibon
The Earth, When the hour was over, 2012
Courtesy of the artist and Regen Projects

In recognizing that surfing has been influenced by eastern thought and other philosophies, we can re-read a normally depressing philosopher like Kierkegaard. Simply put, Kierkegaard could have been a philosopher surfer. His thoughts about individuality, alienation, and anxiety all lend themselves to the philosophy of surfing. He also wrote of dread and fear, essential emotions in dealing with challenging conditions. It would be far too easy to build a surf culture paradigm around Kierkegaard’s aesthetic sphere of existence, but it would also be too intellectual. SWELL-redux prefers to stick to a simpler aesthetic, like “Zen And The Art Of Ding Repair.”

Indeed, by combining the thinking of Timothy Leary, Albert Einstein and Taoist poetry with a nod to deconstructionist extraordinaire Jacques Derrida, it is clear that the surfer is groppling with the most basic elements of all. Surfing is the individual dealing with the power of the ocean, lunar pulls, tidal ebbs and flows; surfers are mystics, inward looking, and engaged in a neurological excursion into bliss, sliding over the water and leaving no trace of their presence. Timing, purity, and DNA are linked internally and externally in an evolutionary arc that builds a species whose goal is to be in the right place at the right time.

Raymond Pettibon
On that Hard Fine Floor, 2007
Courtesy of the artist and Regen Projects
Katharina Fritsch
1. Postkarte (Surfer), 2008
Oil-based ink and acrylic on plastic panel
© Katharina Fritsch / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery

SWELL-redux by no means sees the media-centric surf culture as a semiotic black hole that swallows the individual. Surfing is still the surfer, the board and the waves. In its current form it is part of a technological culture, one that gives freedom to the individual. Symbolically, surfing is a transformation that redefines work and leisure; it has its own language, art, myths, films, and music – an aesthetic symbolic identity that finds the ocean a source of continual freedom – a Swell.

Charles Arnoldi
Untittled ( Z Series), 2005
Oil-based ink and acrylic on plastic panel
Oil on aluminum
Dirk Skreber
No. 11, 2010
Oil on canvas
Jim Evans
Standing Room Only, 1978
Silkscreen Movie Poster
Randall Mesdon
Wood Gun, 2010
Work on paper
42 x 82 inches.
Jim Evans
Underground Comic "Powerhouse", 1967
Ink on museum board
Thaddeus Strode
Oasis Over Sex Crimes, 2006
Mixed media on canvas
Esteban Bojorquez
Simmons Twin Fin, 2010
Mixed media assemblage
Wallace Berman
Untitled (Round astrologicalmap), 1973
Black verifax collage
Jim Evans
Surf Jam, 1967
Ink on museum board
Jim Evans
Underground Comic "Powerhouse", 1967
Ink on museum board
Jim Evans
Surf Jam, 1967
Ink on museum board
Blake Rayne
Untitled, 2010
Vinyl, polyester, synthetic felt,acrylic on canvas
George Herms
The Scientific American, 1973
Mixed Media
Sister Mary Corita
The Cry that will be Heard, 1969
Raymond Pettibon No title (But the sand…), 2011
Acrylic, ink, and pastel on paper. 80 x 126.5 inches
Courtesy of the artist and David Zwirner Galleries.
Robert Longo
Red Sea
Charcoal on stretched paper
70 x 120 inches
Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures Gallery
John Van Hamersveld
The Endless Summer, 2003
Hand-pulled limited edition silkscreen