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  • Provenance

    Ace Gallery, Venice, California
    Private Collection

  • Exhibited

    Vancouver, Ace Gallery, Edward Ruscha: Recent Paintings, June – July, 1981
    Nagoya City Museum and Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery, Barnsdall Park, Contemporary Los Angeles Artists, April – May, 1982 (illustrated on the poster and announcement)
    Los Angeles, County Museum of Art, The Works of Edward Ruscha – Part II: 1973 – 1983, March – May, 1983 (illustrated on the announcement)
    Pasadena, Art Center College of Design, Alyce de Roulet Williamson Gallery, Romance, November 1994 – February 1995

  • Literature

    Ed Ruscha, Ace Gallery, Artforum, 1980 (illustrated on the back cover)

  • Catalogue Essay

    I seemed to be drawn by the most stereotyped concepts of Los Angeles, such as cars, suntans, palm trees, swimming pools, strips of celluloid with perforations; even the word sunset had glamour…All my work gets affected by the things that attracted me to this town in the first place, together with the little twists in my character that motivate me. ED RUSCHA

    (Ed Ruscha, from an interview with Robert Landau and John Pashdag, “A Conservation with Ed Ruscha,” Outrageous LA, San Francisco, 1984, pp. 8-9, quoted in R. Marshall. Ed Ruscha: Made in Los Angeles, Madrid, 2002, p. 14)

    Ed Ruscha’s body of work owes many of its creative impulses to the artist’s fascination with his adopted home in Los Angeles. From his immortal Hollywoods to his Standard Gas Station series, Los Angeles has functioned as the life blood within Ruscha’s work, both old and new. The present lot is a testament not only to the vibrant California culture that gives him brilliant artistic fodder, but also the beautiful sky and landscapes that lend Los Angeles romantic greatness. Romance, 1980 is a breath of Ruscha’s love for America, centered within the waves of the golden coast. He gives us a portrait unique in its power to engage our memories, our notions of meaning, and the meaning of Romance.

    Ruscha has been producing art since 1958. An Oklahoma native, he carries with him a deep-seeded attachment to quintessentially American culture. Through his combinations of visuals and specific wording, artworks become artwords, playing on scale, perspective, and depth with letters and their relation to his painted backgrounds. Ruscha’s move to Los Angeles was a turning point in his life, and one that proved crucial in his career. Departing the geography and mentality of the dusty plains, he found both the mood and environment of the West Coast perfectly suited for his freedom of expression. The liberating surroundings of Los Angeles provided Ruscha with a safehaven, one where he could leave behind the sterile ideals of his hometown.

    Ruscha’s previous experience in commercial sign making, bookbinding, printing, and photography resound acutely in his career. Indeed, his word paintings are a seminal fusion of his many technical influences. Tracing their roots to the graphic design of the early 1950s, Ruscha’s word paintings initially resemble a product of graphic design. Indeed, their use of various fonts from newspapers, billboards, and other signage, paired with familiar images in the background come across as enormous marketing tools—advertisements for the word in question. But, upon close inspection, we see the careful and exacting brushstroke of Ruscha’s painterly hand, and it is in the relationship between his words and images that Ruscha’s true brilliance manifests itself. Though they sometimes resemble each other in color and tone, his text and picture usually contrast each other in provocative ways. Rucha zeroes in our prejudicial notions of emotion with words, and, through exploiting it with dissimilar background, gives us an experience of cognitive dissonance as we view his art. We are reminded that letters and typography have emotional charges comparable to an image itself.

    Through exploring visual language and its relation to text, grammar and literature intertwine with soft brushstrokes and smooth plays of paint. In the present lot, words resemble dreamlike figures floating in the air or vanishing into an oasis of colorful mirage, each letter carefully rendered, each differing font giving evoking a different association. We witness a regal and elegant ‘R’, a bold ‘O’, a monumental ‘M’, a nearly infinitesimal ‘A’, a art-deco ‘N’, a heavy ‘C’, and finally an ‘E’, receding into the distance. All heedful of their spacing, the letters are placed in gradually disappearing perspective, floating away into the horizon. It is as if each letter is a player with a discrete personality, all of whom are acting out a grand theme. Ruscha’s palette on the background is dominated by oranges, royal blues and black, evoking waves of golden sunset at dusk. The melting background also resembles the ethereal surface of an ocean below the sunset, reflecting all the colors burning in the sky above it.

    Ruscha’s unabashedly sentimental background yields remarkable interaction with the disappearing phrase above. As viewers, we might expect that a palette matching Ruscha’s text would be heavy in reds and pinks; a stereotypical color for the language of love. But, as we watch the letters swim in the blue and orange sea before us, the meaning of Romance changes; no longer do we conjure images of hearts and cupids, for we are witnessing Romance’s other meaning: the passion of nature, of landscapes, and of the majesty of California sunsets. In the present lot, we are not only forced to confront our notions of prejudice in terms of our own language, but also to find a harmony between Ruscha’s text and his melting sky. In doing so, we find that he has laid the basis for our formation of a artistic narrative in his work.

    In the end, Romance, 1980 is a picture that enthusiastically embraces the American sense of love. Not only does it refer to a romance between two people, but also a romance between a person and the land as well as between a people and a country. Ruscha’s attraction to the freedom and inspirational environment of Los Angeles begets a picture rich in fervor yet calming in its essence. In marrying our sense of passion with an image of the Romantic sublime itself, Ruscha evokes sentiments of an eternal love affair, and one which continues to drive both our creation of art and our notions of ourselves.

  • 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.

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oil on canvas
55 1/8 x 57 1/2 in. (140 x 146.1 cm)
Signed and dated “Ed Ruscha 1980” on the reverse.

$1,500,000 - 2,500,000 

Sold for $1,538,500

Contemporary Art Part I

7 November 2011
New York