Ed Ruscha


          Docent Researcher: Susan Palmore

 

Biodata

Birth date: 1937 Omaha, Nebraska

Current residence: Culver City, California

Education: Chouinard Art Institute(now Cal Arts), Los Angeles, California 1956-1960 Employment:

 

Major Shows/Galleries

In 1962 Ruscha's work was included, along with Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Robert Dowd, Phillip Hefferton, Joe Goode, Jim Dine, and Wayne Thiebaud, in the historically important and ground-breaking "New Painting of Common Objects," curated by Walter Hopps at the Pasadena Art Museum. This exhibition is historically considered one of the first "Pop Art" exhibitions in America.

Ruscha had his first solo exhibition in 1963 at the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles. In 1966, Ruscha was included in "Los Angeles Now" at the Robert Fraser Gallery in London, his first European exhibition. In 1968, he had his first European solo show in Cologne, Germany, at Galerie Rudolf Zwirner. Ruscha joined the Leo Castelli Gallery in 1970 and had his first solo exhibition there in 1973.[27]

In 1970 Ruscha represented the United States at the Venice Biennale as part of a survey of American printmaking with an on-site workshop. He constructed Chocolate Room, a visual and sensory experience where the visitor saw 360 pieces of paper permeated with chocolate and hung like shingles on the gallery walls. The pavilion in Venice smelled like a chocolate factory.[28] For the Venice Biennale in 1976, Ruscha creates an installation entitled Vanishing Cream, consisting of letters written in Vaseline petroleum jelly on a black wall. Ruscha was the United States representative at the 51st Venice Biennale in 2005, showing the site- and occasion-specific a painting cycle Course of Empire.[29]

Ruscha's work has been exhibited internationally for three decades and is represented in major museum collections. Among his other public commissions are a mural commissioned for the Miami-Dade Public Library, Miami, Florida (1985 and 1989); and for the Great Hall of the Denver Central Library, Colorado (1994-95). Ruscha is represented in Los Angeles by Gagosian Gallery and in New York by Leo Castelli Gallery.       

 

Media/Techniques

Ruscha is associated with the Pop art movement. Rusha has worked in the media of painting, printmaking, drawing, photography, and film. He has also made sixteen small conceptual art books.

 

By the early sixties he was well known for his paintings, collages, and printmaking, and for his association with the Ferus Gallery group, which also included artists Robert Irwin, Edward Moses, Ken Price, and Edward Kienholz. He later achieved recognition for his paintings incorporating words and phrases and for his many photographic books, all influenced by the deadpan irreverence of the Pop Art movement.

 

In the 1980s a more subtle motif began to appear, again in a series of drawings, some incorporating dried vegetable pigments: a mysterious patch of light cast by an unseen window that serves as background for phrases such as WONDER SICKNESS and 99% DEVIL, 1% ANGEL. By the 1990s, Ruscha was creating larger paintings of light projected into empty rooms, some with ironical titles such as An Exhibition of Gasoline Powered Engines (1993).

The very first of Ed Ruscha's word paintings were created as oil paintings on paper in Paris in 1961.[8] Since 1964, Ruscha has been experimenting regularly with painting and drawing words and phrases, often oddly comic and satirical sayings alluding to popular culture and life in LA. When asked where he got his inspiration for his paintings, Ruscha responded, “Well, they just occur to me; sometimes people say them and I write down and then I paint them. Sometimes I use a dictionary.” From 1966 to 1969, Ruscha painted his “liquid word” paintings: Words such as Adios (1967), Steel (1967–9) and Desire (1969) were written as if with liquid spilled, dribbled or sprayed over a flat monochromatic surface. His gunpowder and graphite drawings (made during a period of self-imposed exile from painting from 1967 to 1970)[9] feature single words depicted in a trompe l’oeil technique, as if the words are formed from ribbons of curling paper. In the 1970s, Ruscha, with Barbara Kruger and Jenny Holzer, among others, began using entire phrases in his works, thereby making it a distinctive characteristic of the post-Pop Art generation.[10] In the early 1980s he produced a series of paintings of words over sunsets, night skies and wheat fields. Later, words appeared on a photorealist mountain-range series which Ruscha started producing in 1998.[11]

 

Contextual information (Influences)

Born and raised Catholic, Ruscha readily admits to the influence of religion in his work. He is also aware of the centuries-old tradition of religious imagery in which light beams have been used to represent divine presence. But his work makes no claims for a particular moral position or spiritual attitude.

While in school in 1957, Ruscha chanced upon then unknown Jasper John's Target with Four Faces in the magazine Print and was greatly moved. The pioneering work of Jasper Johns was of particular importance to Ruscha in terms of showing him an alternative to abstract expressionism. Eschewing spontaneity, Johns selected ready-made imagery—initially targets, maps, numbers, and letters. Using the technique of encaustic, in which pigment is mixed with wax and applied to the surface while hot, Johns painted these “things the mind already knows.”

Ruscha has credited these works as sources of inspiration for his change of interest from graphic arts to painting. He was also impacted by Arthur Dove’s 1925 painting Goin’ Fishin’, Alvin Lustig's cover illustrations for New Directions Press, and much of Marcel Duchamp’s work. In a 1961 tour of Europe, Ruscha came upon more works by Johns and Robert Rauschenberg, R. A. Bertelli’s Head of Mussolini, and Ophelia by Sir John Everett Millais.

Ruscha has consistently combined the cityscape of his adopted hometown with vernacular language to communicate a particular urban experience. Encompassing painting, drawing, photography, and artist's books, Ruscha's work holds the mirror up to the banality of urban life and gives order to the barrage of mass media-fed images and information that confronts us daily. Ruscha's early career as a graphic artist continues to strongly influence his aesthetic and thematic approach.

Although Ruscha denies this in interviews, the vernacular of Los Angeles and Southern California landscapes contributes to the themes and styles central to much of Ruscha’s paintings, drawings, and books. Examples of this include the book Every Building on the Sunset Strip (1966), a book of continuous photographs of a two and one half mile stretch of the 24 mile boulevard. Also, paintings like Standard Station, Large Trademark, and Hollywood exemplify Ruscha’s kinship with the Southern California visual language. Two of these paintings, Standard and Large Trademark were emulated out of car parts in 2008 by Brazilian photographer Vik Muniz as a commentary on Los Angeles and its car culture.

Expressive qualities

Ruscha is a Pop artist, exhibiting along with other well-known pop artists at one of the the first pop art shows in 1962. L.A. pop mythology and ad lingo still figure in his paintings, prints and films. But his sartorial style is harder to read.

Subject Matter/ Themes:

Pop Mythology and ad lingo still figure in his works. His work is also strongly influenced by the Hollywood film industry: the mountain in his Mountain Series is a play on the Paramount Pictures logo; Large Trademark with Eight Spotlights (1962) depicts the 20th Century Fox logo, while the dimensions of this work are reminiscent of a movie screen; in his painting The End (1991) these two words, which comprised the final shot in all black-and-white films, are surrounded by scratches and streaks reminiscent of damaged celluloid.

Other Comments/ Information:

The very first of Ed Ruscha's word paintings were created as oil paintings on paper in Paris in 1961.[8] Since 1964, Ruscha has been experimenting regularly with painting and drawing words and phrases, often oddly comic and satirical sayings alluding to popular culture and life in LA. When asked where he got his inspiration for his paintings, Ruscha responded, “Well, they just occur to me; sometimes people say them and I write down and then I paint them. Sometimes I use a dictionary.” From 1966 to 1969, Ruscha painted his “liquid word” paintings: Words such as Adios (1967), Steel (1967–9) and Desire (1969) were written as if with liquid spilled, dribbled or sprayed over a flat monochromatic surface. His gunpowder and graphite drawings (made during a period of self-imposed exile from painting from 1967 to 1970).

In the 1980s, a more subtle motif began to appear, again in a series of drawings, some incorporating dried vegetable pigments: a mysterious patch of light cast by an unseen window that serves as background for phrases such as WONDER SICKNESS and 99% DEVIL, 1% ANGEL (1983). By the 1990s, Ruscha was creating larger paintings of light projected into empty rooms, some with ironic titles such as An Exhibition of Gasoline Powered Engines (1993).

Anecdotal Information and Quotes

 

Ruscha moved to Los Angeles in 1956 with the intention of becoming a commercial artist. Ruscha enrolled at Chouinard Art Institute, now Cal Arts, a school then known as a training ground for Disney illustrators and animators that offered a dual-track curriculum in both fine and commercial art. He worked as a printer’s devil, setting type by hand, pulling proofs, and cleaning presses. He also worked in a mail-order house that personalized toys by enameling them with names. At the same time, Ruscha was trained to approach the canvas in the spontaneous manner of abstract expressionism, but he was quickly frustrated. “I liked painting that way,” he said, “but there was no reason to push it any further…I began to see that the only thing to do would be a preconceived image...”

 

Commercial art, with its careful planning and precision, provided Ruscha with the means to extend the boundaries of painting by pressing it into a dialogue with diverse aspects of culture including linguistics. His vernacular images of Standard gas stations and other commercial logos brought him to prominence as a leader of West Coast pop art in the 1960s.

 

When asked where he got his inspiration for his word paintings, Ruscha responded, “Well, they just occur to me; sometimes people say them and I write down and then I paint them. Sometimes I use a dictionary.”

In his drawings, prints, and paintings throughout the 1970s, Ruscha experimented with a range of materials including gunpowder, vinyl, blood, red wine, fruit and vegetable juices, axle grease, chocolate syrup, tomato paste, bolognese sauce, cherry pie, coffee, caviar, daffodils, tulips, raw eggs and grass stains. Stains, an editioned portfolio of 75 stained sheets of paper produced and published by Ruscha in 1969, bears the traces of a variety of materials and fluids. Ruscha has also produced his word paintings with food products on moiré and silks, since they were more stain-absorbent.

 

References:

1.  ^ Edward Ruscha Biography, ARTINFO, 2008, http://www.artinfo.com/artists/profile/biography/109/edward-ruscha/, retrieved 2008-08-05 

2.  ^ Wells, Walter, Silent Theater: The Art of Edward Hopper, London/New York: Phaidon, 2007.

3.  ^ Ed Ruscha: Fifty Years of Painting, May 29 - September 5, 2010 Moderna Museet, Stockholm.

4.   ^ Ed Ruscha: Fifty Years of Painting, May 29 - September 5, 2010 Moderna Museet, Stockholm. ^

5.  ^ Ed Ruscha: Metro Plots, January 27 - February 27, 1999 Gagosian Gallery, New York.

6.  ^ Rachel Lyon, Ed Ruscha Crown Point Press, San Francisco.

7.  ^ Ed Ruscha: Boulangerie, 1961 Christie's New York, Works from the Collection of Michael Crichton, 11–12 May 2010, New York.

8.  ^ Ed Ruscha: OOO and Lisp, 1970 National Gallery of Australia, Canberra.

9.  ^ Ed Ruscha Marlborough Gallery.

10.                 ^ Alastair Sooke (February 9, 2008), Ed Ruscha: Painting's maverick man of letters The Telegraph.

11.                 ^ Ed Ruscha: Fifty Years of Painting, May 29 - September 5, 2010 Moderna Museet, Stockholm.

12.                 ^ Ed Ruscha, ‘’Crossover Dreams’’ (1991) National Galleries of Scotland and Tate

13.                 ^ Gravity's Rainbow, 21 May - 23 July 2011 Ingleby Gallery, Edinburgh.

14.                 ^ Ed Ruscha Tate Collection.

15.                 ^ Ed Ruscha's Light: An Exhibition of Works Related to the Artist's Recent Commission for the Getty Center, May 12 - September 13, 1998 The J. Paul Getty Museum.

16.                 ^ Ed Ruscha: Triptych De Young Museum, San Francisco.

17.                 ^ Press Release: SFMOMA and GAP partner to create limited edition T-shirt collection San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

18.                 ^ Bill Powers Ed Ruscha W Magazine, November 2007.

19.                 ^ David Colman (October 19, 2003), Possessed: A Keepsake Of Romance And Travels Close to Hom New York Times.

20.                 ^ Karin Nelson (January 10, 2010), Words by Jack, Art by Ed New York Times

21.                 ^ Roberta Smith (September 7, 2007), “Documenta 5” at Specific Object New York Times

22.                 ^ Mike Kelley/Edward Ruscha: Photographs, April 3 – May 1, 1999 Patrick Painter Gallery, Los Angeles.

23.                 ^ Andrew Russeth (May 18, 2010), Ed Ruscha's Rare Early Films Visit New York ARTINFO.

24.                 ^ Ed Ruscha: Apartments, Parking Lots, Palm Trees and others: Films, Photographs and Drawings from 1961 to 1975, Sprüth Magers Galerie, Berlin.

25.                 ^ Claudia Bodin (February 15, 2010), Highway zur Kunst. Interview mit Ed Ruscha Art Magazin.

26.                 ^ Amei Wallach (June 24, 2001), The Restless American: On Ed Ruscha's Road New York Times.

27.                 ^ Jacqueline Trescott (October 30, 2004), Ed Ruscha Chosen for Biennale The Washington Post.

28.                 ^ www.guggenheim-venice.it/img/padiglione/5_2005_Ruscha.pdf Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice.

29.                 ^ Douglas, Sarah. "In Retrospect: Ed Ruscha."Art+Auction, October 2009.

30.                 ^ "Emerson Woelffer: A Solo Flight", curated by Ed Ruscha, November 20 - December 28, 2003 The Gallery at REDCAT in Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles.

31.                 ^ Amei Wallach (June 24, 2001), The Restless American: On Ed Ruscha's Road New York Times.

32.                 ^ Carol Vogel (December 12, 2003), Investing in Chocolate New York Times.

33.                 ^ Carol Vogel (March 5, 2004), Gift for Whitney New York Times.

34.                 ^ Carol Vogel (November 11, 2005), Ruscha's Biennale Works Are Shown at the Whitney New York Times.

35.                 ^ MoCA Names Ruscha to Board, ARTINFO, January 15, 2006, http://www.artinfo.com/news/story/9488/moca-names-ruscha-to-board/, retrieved 2008-04-17 

36.                 ^ Jacqueline Trescott (October 30, 2004), Ed Ruscha Chosen for Biennale The Washington Post.

37.                 ^ Press Release, 11 September 2010: Ed Ruscha hits the Highlands The Art Fund.

38.                 ^ Andrew Russeth (October 6, 2009), Ed Ruscha Honored at National Arts Awards ARTINFO.

39.                 ^ MoCA Names Ruscha to Board, ARTINFO, January 15, 2006, http://www.artinfo.com/news/story/9488/moca-names-ruscha-to-board/, retrieved 2008-04-17 

40.                 ^ Amy Chozik and Kelly Crow (May 22, 2009), Changing the Art on the White House Walls Wall Street Journal.

41.                 ^ Rachel Cooke (12 September 2010), Ed Ruscha: 'There's room for saying things in bright shiny colours' The Observer.

42.                 ^ Amei Wallach (June 24, 2001), The Restless American: On Ed Ruscha's Road New York Times.

43.                 ^ Carol Vogel (May 15, 2002), Contemporary-Art Auction Sets Records for 15 Artists New York Times.

44.                 ^ [1] Sotheby's

45.                 ^ Lindsay Pollock and Philip Boroff (November 12, 2008), Eli Broad Goes Shopping as Sotheby's Art Auction Falls Short Bloomberg.

46.                 ^ Carol Vogel (May 13, 2010), Art Auction Highlights a Financial Downfall New York Times.

47.                 ^ [2] Phillips de Pury & Company

48.                 Dana Goodyear (11 April 2011), Ed Ruscha: 'California Postcard: Moving Day' The New Yorker.

 

 

 

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