8 1/2 x 10 1/4 in.
Edition of 250
Pencil signed, dated and numbered
About the work:
Ed Ruscha can be called the Jack Kerouac of art. Since his first road trip from Oklahoma City to Los Angeles in 1956, West coast Pop artist Ed Ruscha has been influenced by themes and icons surrounding America. The drive, which he took with his life long friend, classical guitarist and composer Mason Williams took about three days in a 1950 Ford sedan.
At the time, Ruscha, who has since become an avid photographer, did not own a camera and the only record of the trip is a log that the artist has kept over the years. The two friends, who were still teenagers at the time, used the log to keep track of their expenses as they were trying to stick to a budget. The log tells the story of their journey. Ruscha has said: “My art, really my life, evolved out of that trip. […] The log took the place of photographs. I got a camera soon after arriving in L.A.” American landscapes and text are what the artist is best known for, both of which emerged from from his cross country experience.
This week’s Work of the Week! WOW! is Main Street, by Ed Ruscha.
“Main Street” is part of the iconography of American life.
The “Main Street of America” branding was used to promote U.S. Route 66 in its heyday. Main Street is a generic phrase used to denote a primary retail street of a village, town or small city.
In small towns across the United States, Main Street is not only the major road running through town but the site of all street life, a place where townspeople hang out and watch the annual parades go by. In the general sense, the term “Main Street” refers to a place of traditional values. However, in the America of later decades, “Main Street” represents the interests of everyday people and small business owners, in contrast with “Wall Street”, symbolizing the interests of large national corporations.
Ruscha treats words as visual compositions which are typically categorized between pop and conceptual art. Works feature a word with strong connotations and a powerful visual impact. Ruscha uses the multiplicity of meaning to encourage the viewer to consider all the subconscious connotations of the word. This could be expanded to an exploration of the subconscious meanings hidden in all forms of language. The words elicits a mixed response within the viewer in which preconceived ideas about the subject are confronted and either validated or challenged.
Noting the transformation of Main Streets in American cities from small “mom and pop” businesses, ice cream parlours, and public square gatherings, to big box stores, chain restaurants, and consumers jay walking across the street, while burying their heads in their cell phones, the words Main Street takes on a much diff erent meaning than it once did. Ruscha’s Main Street, not only takes us back to the days of nostalgia, but also to modern times where Main Street meets and flirts with Wall Street. Innocence and American values are overshadowed by greed and technology. Overshadowed is the key word, because not only is Ruscha’s Main Street a sign of modernism replacing the past, but it also implies a sense of hope, that one day the traces of the past will lead to a happy memory, and a wanting to inject the future with the values of the days of old.
Rather than simply painting a word, Ruscha considered the particular font that might add an elevated emotion to the meaning much like the way a poet considers a phrase. By painting a word as a visual, he felt he was marking it as offi cial, glorifying it as an object rather than a mere piece of text.
The typography of the words in Main Street sets this piece apart from the majority of his work because it is not done in “Boy Scout Utility Modern.” Inspired by the Hollywood sign, the artist invented “Boy Scout Utility Modern” in 1980, and uses it regularly in his works. In this case, rather, the font seems closer in nature to “Times.” “Times” is a classic font, designed for its legibility so it is an obvious choice for a representation of the most famous street name in America: Main Street. Main Street is an ode and textual portrait of an American symbol.
Ed Ruscha is fascinated with the streetscape as a subject matter, and over the span of his six-decade career, Ed Ruscha has shaped the way we see it – depicting gas stations, signs or continuous photographs of Hollywood Boulevard. His works convey a distinct and bold brand of Americana. Ruscha explains. “I take things as I find them. A lot of these things come from the noise of everyday life.”
Ed Ruscha, Stranger
30 x 22 1/2 in.
This piece is pencil signed and numbered.
About This Work:
Since the early sixties, Ruscha has wittily explored language by channeling words and the act of communication to represent west coast American culture. Language, in particular the written word, has pervaded the visual arts, but no other artist has the command over words as Ruscha. His works are not to be understood as pictures of words, but instead words treated as visual constructs. His idea plays into the very essence of Pop Art.
Ruscha offers the capacity for multiple meanings of words, as seen in Stranger. Stranger can be a understood as a comparison of more or less than, or rather something or someone unknown. There is no definitive right answer, the meaning is based upon viewer discretion. The descending style in which he displays the word, both iconic and playful, elicits a similar ambiguity.
About Ed Ruscha:
Edward Ruscha has remained an important figure in American art since the early 1960s when his artwork first came to the fore as part of the West Coast Pop Art movement. Since that time, he has continued to develop his signature style, which combines words and images on the same visual field. By doing so, visual and verbal means of communication coexist and create a sense of friction. The words conjure mental images that do not necessarily describe what the eye actually sees in the painting.
A painter, printmaker, and filmmaker, Edward Ruscha was born in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1937, and lived some 15 years in Oklahoma City before moving permanently to Los Angeles where he studied at the Chouinard Art Institute from 1956 through 1960. 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.
Ruscha has a talent for making the banal seem significant. He often reduces his subject to the minimum amount of detail needed for identification. Places and structures are often depicted as shadows. Ruscha is interested in language, and how that language can describe but not depict space. Words have been present in many of Ruscha’s paintings, often occupying the whole canvas. What they say is always clear. What they mean is more ambiguous
A major retrospective of Ruscha’s career opened at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C. in June 2000 and traveled to the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, The Miami Art Museum, and the Modern Art Museum of Ft. Worth, TX. In 2001 Ruscha was elected to The American Academy of Arts and Letters as a member of the Department of Art.
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.
In 2004, The Whitney Museum of American Art exhibited an Ed Ruscha drawing retrospective, “Cotton Puffs, Q-tips®, Smoke and Mirrors: The Drawings of Ed Ruscha,”.
At the invitation of the U.S Department of State, four distinguished American museums recommended noted American artist Ed Ruscha to represent the United States at the 2005 Venice Biennale. The group consisted of the directors and curatorial representatives of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden of the Smithsonian Institution, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art. Mr. Ruscha nominated Linda Norden, the Associate Curator of Contemporary Art at the Fogg Art Museum of Harvard University, to serve as curator of his exhibition. The U.S. Department of State approved these recommendations.