Alexandra Kometovna

Swell redux

Alexandra Kometovna
Swell redux

a curator’s cut by JACQUELINE MIRÓ
text by
JIM EVANS

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.

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.

In recognizing that surfing has been influenced by eastern thought and other philosophies, we can reread 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.”

Esteban Bojorquez Simmons Twin Fin, 2010 Mixed media assemblage

Esteban Bojorquez Simmons Twin Fin, 2010 Mixed media assemblage

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.

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.

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.

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.

Jim Evans Standing Room Only, 1978 Silkscreen Movie Poster

Jim Evans
Standing Room Only, 1978 Silkscreen Movie Poster

John Van Hamersveld The Endless Summer, 2003 Hand-pulled limited edition silkscreen

John Van Hamersveld
The Endless Summer, 2003
Hand-pulled limited edition silkscreen

David Lloyd The Warrior, 2013

David Lloyd
The Warrior, 2013

George Herms The Scientific American, 1973 Mixed Media

George Herms
The Scientific American, 1973 Mixed Media

Blake Rayne Untitled, 2010 Vinyl, polyester, synthetic felt, acrylic on canvas

Blake Rayne
Untitled, 2010
Vinyl, polyester, synthetic felt, acrylic on canvas

Randall Mesdon USA Surfboard, 2010 Work on paper 42 x 82 inches.

Randall Mesdon
USA Surfboard, 2010 Work on paper
42 x 82 inches.

Raymond Pettibon Dangling mid-air, I hold my Breath, 2012  Courtesy of the artist and Regen Projects

Raymond Pettibon
Dangling mid-air, I hold my Breath, 2012
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

Katharina Fritsch
1. Postkarte (Surfer), 2008
Oil-based ink and acrylic on plastic panel © Katharina Fritsch / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn / Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery

Robert Longo Red Sea Charcoal on stretched paper 70 x 120 inches Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures Gallery

Robert Longo
Red Sea
Charcoal on stretched paper
70 x 120 inches
Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures Gallery

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

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

Randall Mesdon Wood Gun, 2010 Work on paper 42 x 82 inches.

Randall Mesdon
Wood Gun, 2010
Work on paper 42 x 82 inches.

Ashley Bickerton Orange Shark, 2008 Polyurethane resin, nylon, cotton webbing,stain-less steel, scope, distilled water,coconuts, rope 60 x 108 x 60 inches

Ashley Bickerton
Orange Shark, 2008
Polyurethane resin, nylon, cotton webbing,stain-less steel, scope, distilled water,coconuts, rope 60 x 108 x 60 inches

Nick Waplington SURF RIOT series Image courtesy of Little Big Man Books

Nick Waplington
SURF RIOT series
Image courtesy of Little Big Man Books

Sister Mary Corita The Cry that will be Heard, 1969 Serigraph

Sister Mary Corita
The Cry that will be Heard, 1969 Serigraph

Raymond Pettibon On that Hard Fine Floor, 2007 Courtesy of the artist and Regen Projects

Raymond Pettibon
On that Hard Fine Floor, 2007
Courtesy of the artist and Regen Projects

Raymond Pettibon The Earth, When the hour was over, 2012  Courtesy of the artist and Regen Projects

Raymond Pettibon
The Earth, When the hour was over, 2012
Courtesy of the artist and Regen Projects

Thaddeus Strode Oasis Over Sex Crimes, 2006 Mixed media on canvas

Thaddeus Strode
Oasis Over Sex Crimes, 2006 Mixed media on canvas

Jim Evans Underground Comic "Powerhouse", 1967 Ink on museum board

Jim Evans
Underground Comic "Powerhouse", 1967 Ink on museum board

Charles Arnoldi Untittled ( Z Series), 2005 Oil-based ink and acrylic on plastic panel Oil on aluminum

Charles Arnoldi
Untittled ( Z Series), 2005
Oil-based ink and acrylic on plastic panel Oil on aluminum

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Jim Evans Surf Jam, 1967 Ink on museum board

Jim Evans
Surf Jam, 1967
Ink on museum board

A9R1tdtqc0_5b3jwu_558.jpg
A9R13xrp1r_5b3jww_558.jpg
Dirk Skreber No. 11, 2010 Oil on canvas

Dirk Skreber
No. 11, 2010
Oil on canvas

Wallace Berman Untitled (Round astrologicalmap), 1973 Black verifax collage

Wallace Berman
Untitled (Round astrologicalmap), 1973 Black verifax collage