Ed Ruscha - Contemporary Art Part I New York Wednesday, May 13, 2009 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Sprüth Magers Lee, London

  • Exhibited

    Munich, Monika Sprüth Philomene Magers, Ed Ruscha: With and Without Words, September 13 – October 19, 2002

  • Catalogue Essay

    This work will be included in a forthcoming volume of Edward Ruscha: Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings, edited by Robert Dean and Lisa Turvey.
      Letters, signs, maps, and symbols are among the most prominent themes in Ed Ruscha’s work. The quintessential American artist creates seemingly simplistic works that are supercharged with meaning and have a certain poetic message. In the present lot, the artist has the American cities Memphis, Cheyenne, and Portland written on the canvas in minimalist, slanting letters. Beyond this clean and somewhat somber composition, Portland to Memphis recalls the romantic and American ideals of road tripping, an idea coined by the Beat poets and most famously by Jack Kerouc in On the Road. The painting is grey and varies in its degrees of light and dark, therefore appearing as if it was done by pencil in the stippling technique. The style and technique of the painting alludes to a barren futuristic landscape. Ruscha comments, “The idea of seeing something from the air…something from an angle. It’s something that moves me as an artist…So it was kind of a natural thing that I began to gravitate toward, and then finally make these paintings. They almost look like what these streets might look like in the year 5000.” (Ed Ruscha taken from A. Schwartz, “Conversation with Edward Ruscha in his Studio, Venice California, October 29, 1999,” Leave Any Information at the Signal: Writings, Interviews, Bits, Pages, Cambridge, 2002, p. 375).

  • Artist Biography

    Ed Ruscha

    American • 1937

    Ed Ruscha is an Los Angeles-based artist whose art, like California itself, is both geographically rooted and a metaphor for an American state of mind. A deft creator of photography, film, painting, drawing, prints and artist books, Ruscha has executed works for over 60 years that are simultaneously unexpected and familiar, both ironic and sincere.

    His most iconic works are poetic and deadpan, epigrammatic text with nods to advertising copy, juxtaposed with imagery that is either cinematic and sublime or seemingly wry documentary. Whether the subject is his iconic Standard Gas Station or the Hollywood Sign, a parking lot or highway, his works are a distillation of American idealism, echoing the expansive Western landscape and optimism unique to the post-war world.

    View More Works


Portland to Memphis


Acrylic on canvas.

42 x 84 in. (106.7 x 213.4 cm).

Signed and dated “Ed Ruscha 2000” on the reverse; signed and titled “Ed Ruscha Portland to Memphis” on the stretcher.

$500,000 - 700,000 

Contemporary Art Part I

14 May 2009, 7pm
New York