WOW – Work Of the Week – Ed Ruscha “Cash For Tools 2”

Cash for Tools 2

Cash For Tools 2, from Rusty Signs
Mixograph on handmade paper
24 x 24 in.
Edition of 50
Pencil signed, dated and numbered

About This Work:

Ed Ruscha is a well-known American artist who achieved recognition for artworks incorporating words and phrases, all influenced by the deadpan irreverence of the Pop Art movement. Indeed his textual art can be linked with the Pop Art movement but also with the Beat Generation as well.

During the Cold War era, the rise of commercial advertising was a dominant force in American life. Consequently, the increasing importance of graphic design, the popularity of Hollywood and American cinema as well as the lights and the landscapes of the West Coast, provided the backdrop against which Ruscha developed his highly original iconography.

Since the early sixties, Ed Ruscha has wittily explored language by channeling words and the act of communication to represent 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.

Cash For Tools 2 is part of the Rusty Signs, series in which Ruscha uses words, that he considers as “neglected and forgotten signs from neglected and forgotten landscapes”. These Rusty Signs are reproduced in uncanny detail that blurs the line between the fictitious and the real.

This artwork, as well as the whole series, is further expression of a consistent theme that runs throughout his work: the passage of time. We are confronted with the physical effect of time upon them, a blunt reminder of its inescapability, even on steel.

Once again filtered through the language of common American objects, these prints appear to be rusted signs that read “DEAD END,” “CASH FOR TOOLS,” and “FOR SALE 17 ACRES.”

Ruscha has chosen to produce multiple variations of these signs, giving the impression that they have been weathered by time in varying ways, as if they came from different locations or were subjected to a different set of circumstances. For example there are two versions of Cash For Tools and Cash For Tools 2 is more ruined and consumed than Cash For Tools 1. Some have gunshots and some are missing sections, while others appear to have acquired thick layers of rust and grime. In this way, each piece of the series seems to contain an independent story, their histories having literally formed their present state. 

The Rusty Signs series also marks a transformation of some of Ruscha’s aesthetic concerns; having painted and photographed signs and signage throughout his career, works such as Cash For Tools 2 signify the first time in which he is not merely representing the image of the sign, but actually recreating the sign itself. We no longer see a fictionalized representation but we actually see the sign itself, and its physicality is a part of its essence. At the same time, having been removed from context, they still share the sense of disconnection that permeates in many of his depictions of signs.

Ruscha asks us to consider these components of visual culture as independent objects, as if their introduction into the world was not merely an accident or result of inevitable forces, but an act of creation, a work of art.

Other works by this artist:


For Sale

  For Sale 17 Acres, by Ed Ruscha  



Stranger, by Ed Ruscha




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