Ed Ruscha - Contemporary Art Part II New York Friday, May 14, 2010 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Gagosian Gallery, New York

  • Exhibited

    San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, The Works of Edward Ruscha, 1982 (another example exhibited); Paris, Centre Georges Pompidou, Edward Ruscha, 1990 (another example exhibited); Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, The “POP ART” Exhibition, October 1992 - January 1993 (another example exhibited)

  • Literature

    P. Plagens, “Ed Ruscha, Seriously,” The Works of Edward Ruscha, San Francisco, 1982, p. 33 (illustrated); D. Cameron, “Love in Ruins,” Edward Ruscha, Paris, 1990, p. 16 (illustrated); Edward Ruscha Editions 1959-1999, Catalogue Raisonné, vol. 1 and 2, Minneapolis, 1999, pp. 53-55, nos. 187-196 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    In the documentary Reyner Banham Loves Los Angeles, made for BBC television in 1972, the eponymous Peter Reyner Banham, then professor of architecture at University College London, drives around LA, boyishly appreciating the things that ‘Europeans’ supposedly find so vacuous and vulgar about American west coast culture: freeways, custom cars, surfboards, and so on.
    At one point he visits Tiny Naylor’s Drive-In on Sunset Boulevard, where he asks Ed Ruscha and Mike Salisbury (then art editor of West magazine) what architecture a visitor should go to see in Los Angeles. Ruscha (looking very cool in a Peter Fonda, Easy Rider kind of way) says, ‘Gas stations.’
    Banham asks what are the virtues of gas stations and Ruscha says, ‘The fact that they can just put ’em together in about three days.’ As the conversation continues, there’s no sense that Ruscha’s telling people to look at gas stations as a provocation, as a deadpan Warholian put-on. He is clearly interested in the look and the depiction, indeed the very idea of gas stations, which is why he paints and photographs them so eagerly.
    It’s also an inevitable consequence of making art out of something as impermanent as a gas station that the depiction outlasts the gas station itself. Ruscha’s artist’s book Twentysix Gasoline Stations (1963), consisting of 26 blank, artless snapshots of gas stations along Route 66, is close to 50 years old. His oil painting Standard Station, Amarillo, Texas and the screenprints derived from it are only a few years younger, though their imagery is anything but blank and artless.
    Although we know that gas stations don’t look the way Ruscha paints them, these dramatic images, with their extreme diagonal perspective and intense colors, capture the essence of what we would like all gas stations to be. They are Platonic forms. Elsewhere, he has given mountains and sunsets the same treatment. Mary Voelz Chandler quotes him as saying, ‘I don’t paint horses and pioneers. I paint the idea of horses and the idea of pioneers. I’m the product of communications and propaganda.’
    Is there anything essentially or uniquely Californian or LA about all this? Ruscha has certainly resisted his status as the archetypal west-coast artist. ‘Whatever comes out of my work is based on my exposure to the damned universe,’ he once said.
    Ruscha’s attitude is understandable. Like any self-respecting artist he wants to think of himself as sui generis, not as a representative of any single style or period. I think he probably protests too much. Much of his art uses distinctly local imagery; the Hollywood sign, buildings on the Sunset Strip, the Los Angeles County Museum. The fact that these images have a more than local significance is of course what makes them so resonant. I think it’s also fair to say that Ruscha’s selection of specifically west coast themes is the very thing that drew people to his work. But also, having absorbed Ruscha’s Platonic versions of gas stations, parking lots and so on, we look at the real thing with brand new eyes. There are days when LA looks like an installation designed by Ed Ruscha.
    By Geoff Nicholson (excerpt from a longer essay)

  • Artist Biography

    Ed Ruscha

    American • 1937

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

    His most iconic works are at turns 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 postwar America.

    View More Works

Property from the Halsey Minor Collection


10 works from Twentysix Gasoline Stations


10 gelatin silver prints laid down on board.

Each 19 1/2 x 23 in. (49.5 x 58.4 cm) paper size.

Each stamped with individual location and numbered of 25 on the reverse. This work is from an edition of 25.

$80,000 - 120,000 

Sold for $80,500

Contemporary Art Part II

14 May 2010
New York