Ed Ruscha

© Ed Ruscha. Courtesy of the artist and Gagosian Gallery. Photography by Sten M. Rosenlund

Ed Ruscha
Born:
December 16, 1937
Birthplace:
Omaha, Nebraska, United States

About Ed Ruscha

One of the most important postwar artists, Ed Ruscha came into prominence during the 1960s pop art movement. First recognized for his associations to graphic design and commercial art, Ruscha became admired for his mediations on word and image. Working in a variety of media and taking the environment of Los Angeles as a guide, Ruscha creates candid, comic presentations of familiar ideas and locations that continue to impact contemporary art.
 
Boss, 1961, according to Ruscha, is his first mature painting and one of the few canvases he completed with a heavy impasto surface. The impasto gives the word “Boss” a visual weight, as in concrete poetry where a word literally becomes an object. Ruscha quickly abandoned the idea of a word taking on an object quality, however, in exchange for smoother surfaces and more simplistic linguistic constructions. The distinction between “boss” as a person who leads and “boss” as a late 1950s figure of speech adds to the painting’s depth and the play between the image and the object quality of the paint.
 
Ruscha’s drawing and photography have always inspired and laid the groundwork for his painting, but in recent years, these works have become heavily sought after as mature expressions of Ruscha’s oeuvre. In the late 1960s, Ruscha started employing gunpowder in drawing as a way to soften the texture of his images as well as to gain more control over atmospheric effect. Ruscha used cotton puffs to rub the fine powder into the paper, applying multiple layers in a laborious process. Turn Around, 1979, takes the gunpowder technique to the level of metaphor, wittily asking one to turn around as if they were at gunpoint. The expression recalls the Wild West persona often applied to Ruscha, stemming from his Route 66 cross-country journey from Oklahoma to Los Angeles in his early twenties.
 
In 2005, Ruscha represented the United States at the Venice Biennial. Blue Collar Tech-Chem, 1992, and The Old Tech-Chem Building, 2003, were featured in the show. The paintings depict the transformation of an industrial building from a Tech-Chem facility into Fat Boy. Inspired by Thomas Cole’s nineteenth-century The Course of Empire cycle, the works denote a journey from darkness (as is the background of Blue Collar Tech-Chem) into a place of looming destruction. Emblazoned with Fat Boy, The Old Tech-Chem Building represents a decadent morning with death on the horizon. Fat Boy is the name of the nuclear bomb dropped over Nagasaki; the crimson sunrise conjures the Los Angeles sky when a distant grass fire burns and the sun turns bloodshot red.
 
Azteca, 2007, and Azteca in Decline, 2007, are two long, narrow triptychs depicting three flags or ribbons of color in transformation and destruction. In the first triptych, Ruscha recreates a mural he saw in Mexico City. Both the mural and the wall are represented in trompe l’oeil entirety, with seams and cracks and drips. In the second triptych, Ruscha shows the mural melting into tectonic, dissolving forms. Rather than following the large plumes of color to their destruction, the wall is steadfast along with a small burst of graffiti.

By Ed Ruscha in the Collection

Ed Ruscha
1965
oil on canvas
55 x 48 in. (139.7 x 121.92 cm)
On View
Ed Ruscha
2002
acrylic on raw linen
24 x 20 in. (60.96 x 50.8 cm)
Ed Ruscha
2007
acrylic on canvas, diptych
48 x 330 in. (121.92 x 838.2 cm)
Ed Ruscha
2002
acrylic on raw linen
24 x 20 in. (60.96 x 50.8 cm)
Ed Ruscha
2010
lithograph
28 1/2 x 28 in. (72.39 x 71.12 cm)
Ed Ruscha
1996 - 1997
acrylic on canvas
77 5/8 x 77 5/8 x 1 5/8 in. (197.17 x 197.17 x 4.13 cm)
Ed Ruscha
1992
acrylic on canvas
48 5/8 x 109 3/8 in. (123.51 x 277.81 cm)
Ed Ruscha
1961
oil on canvas
72 x 67 in. (182.88 x 170.18 cm)
On View
Ed Ruscha
1967
graphite on paper
14 1/2 x 23 in. (36.83 x 58.42 cm)
Ed Ruscha
2002
acrylic on canvas
72 x 124 in. (182.88 x 314.96 cm)
Ed Ruscha
1969
oil on canvas
60 x 55 in. (152.4 x 139.7 cm)
On View
Ed Ruscha
2011
acrylic on vellum
25 1/4 x 25 1/4 x 2 in. (64.14 x 64.14 x 5.08 cm)
Ed Ruscha
1973
gunpowder and tobacco on paper
23 x 29 in. (58.4 x 73.7 cm)
Ed Ruscha
1961
ink, oil, and collage on paper
12 7/8 x 9 1/2 in. (32.7 x 24.13 cm)
Ed Ruscha
2011 - 2012
acrylic on canvas
48 x 84 in. (121.92 x 213.36 cm)
Ed Ruscha
1962
oil and pencil on canvas
67 x 71 5/8 in. (170.18 x 181.93 cm)
Ed Ruscha
2013
lithograph
29 x 28 in. (73.66 x 71.12 cm)
Ed Ruscha
1979
pastel on paper
23 x 29 in. (58.42 x 73.66 cm)
Ed Ruscha
1962
oil, black ink, and pencil on paper mounted on board
15 3/4 x 16 1/4 in. (40.01 x 41.28 cm)
Ed Ruscha
2011
acrylic on vellum
25 1/4 x 25 1/4 x 2 in. (64.14 x 64.14 x 5.08 cm)
Ed Ruscha
2011
acrylic on vellum
30 x 24 1/2 x 2 in. (76.2 x 62.23 x 5.08 cm)
Ed Ruscha
2002
acrylic and India ink on raw linen
24 x 20 in. (60.96 x 50.8 cm)
Ed Ruscha
2011
lithograph
28 3/4 x 28 in. (73.03 x 71.12 cm)
Ed Ruscha
2001
acrylic on canvas
64 x 72 in. (162.56 x 182.88 cm)
Ed Ruscha
1977
oil on canvas
36 x 84 in. (91.4 x 213.4 cm)
On View
Ed Ruscha
1964
oil and pencil on canvas
64 1/2 x 124 3/4 x 2 1/2 in. (163.83 x 316.87 x 6.35 cm)
On View
Ed Ruscha
2013
lithograph
28 3/4 x 28 in. (73.03 x 71.12 cm)
Ed Ruscha
2010
acrylic on canvas
60 x 112 x 2 in. (152.4 x 284.48 x 5.08 cm)
Ed Ruscha
2010
acrylic on canvas
48 x 110 in. (121.92 x 279.4 cm)
Ed Ruscha
1977
pastel and graphite on paper
12 3/4 x 28 3/4 in. (32.39 x 73.03 cm)
Ed Ruscha
2011
acrylic on vellum
20 x 20 x 2 in. (50.8 x 50.8 x 5.08 cm)
Ed Ruscha
1987
acrylic on canvas
54 x 120 x 1 5/8 in. (137.16 x 304.8 x 4.13 cm)
Ed Ruscha
1998-99
acrylic on canvas
60 x 112 in. (152.4 x 284.48 cm)
Ed Ruscha
1993
acrylic on canvas
84 x 60 in. (213.36 x 152.4 cm)
Ed Ruscha
1976
pastel on paper
22 3/4 x 28 3/4 in. (57.79 x 73.03 cm)
Ed Ruscha
2003
acrylic on canvas
48 1/2 x 109 1/2 in. (123.19 x 278.13 cm)
Ed Ruscha
2011
acrylic on linen
30 7/8 x 30 3/4 x 1 5/8 in. (78.42 x 78.11 x 4.13 cm)
Ed Ruscha
2011
acrylic on vellum
20 x 20 x 2 in. (50.8 x 50.8 x 5.08 cm)
Ed Ruscha
2011
acrylic on vellum
20 x 20 x 2 in. (50.8 x 50.8 x 5.08 cm)
Ed Ruscha
2011
acrylic on linen
30 7/8 x 30 3/4 x 1 5/8 in. (78.42 x 78.11 x 4.13 cm)
Ed Ruscha
1979
gunpowder on paper
23 x 29 in. (58.42 x 73.66 cm)
Ed Ruscha
2013
lithograph
29 x 28 in. (73.66 x 71.12 cm)
Ed Ruscha
2011
acrylic on vellum
20 x 20 x 2 in. (50.8 x 50.8 x 5.08 cm)
Ed Ruscha
1985
oil and enamel on canvas
64 x 78 1/2 in. (162.56 x 199.39 cm)
Ed Ruscha
1977
pastel on paper
23 1/8 x 29 1/8 in. (58.74 x 73.98 cm)