Edward Ruscha

(b. 1937, Omaha, Nebraska, lives and works in Los Angeles)

“(Painting is an) almost obsolete, archaic form of communication… I felt newspapers, magazines, books and words to be more meaningful than what some damn oil painter was doing.” Edward Ruscha (2000)

Edward Ruscha came to prominence in the late 1950s in Los Angeles when he began making small collages similar to those of Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg. Because he drew upon sources from the real world and embraced the vulgar techniques and imagery of postwar media culture, his work has been associated with Pop Art. Ruscha has combined the cityscape of Los Angeles with vernacular language to communicate a particular urban experience. Encompassing painting, drawing, photography, and artist’s books which were printed in small press runs of only a few hundred copies (many early editions survive only in poor condition), Ruscha’s practice 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 has been committed to the written word as an integral part of the artistic experience. In his works a competition between the visual and the verbal makes perception and interpretation particularly challenging.

“I – when I am planning a book, I have a blind faith in what I am doing. I am not implying I don’t have doubts, or that
I haven’t made mistakes. Nor am I really interested in books as such, but I am interested in unusual kinds of publications. The first book came out of a play with words. The title came before I even thought about the pictures. I like the word ‘gasoline’ and I like the specific quality of ‘twenty-six.’ If you look at the book you will see how well the typography works – I worked on all that before I took the photographs. Not that I had an important message about photographs or gasoline, or anything like that – I merely wanted a cohesive thing. Above all, the photographs I use are not ‘arty’ in any sense of the word. I think photography is dead as a fine art; its only place is in the commercial world, for technical or information purposes. I don’t mean cinema photography, but still-photography, that is, limited edition, individual, hand-processed photos. Mine are simply reproductions of photos. Thus, it is not a book to house a collection of art photographs – they are technical data like industrial photography. To me, they are nothing more than snapshots.” Edward Ruscha (1965)