Ed Ruscha - Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Thursday, May 14, 2015 | Phillips

Create your first list.

Select an existing list or create a new list to share and manage lots you follow.

  • Provenance

    Gagosian Gallery, New York

  • Exhibited

    New York, Gagosian Gallery, Ed Ruscha, Paintings, May 10 - June 15, 2002
    Strasbourg, Musée d'art Moderne et Contemporain, L'Horizon Chimérique, Ed Ruscha — Jean-Marc Bustamante, May 11 - September 9, 2007

  • Literature

    A. Gopnik, Ed Ruscha, Paintings, Gagosian Gallery, New York, 2002, p. 16 (illustrated), cover (illustrated)
    G. Nicholson, "Ed Is on No Side," Modern Painters, 2003, p. 54 (illustrated)
    C. McLaughlin, "On the Road to the Venice Biennale with One of America's Most Iconic Artists," Insider, 2005, p. 11 (illustrated)
    L'Horizon Chimérique, Ed Ruscha — Jean-Marc Bustamante, exh. cat., Musée d'art Moderne et Contemporain, Strasbourg, 2007, p. 73 (illustrated)
    R. Dean & L. Turvey, Edward Ruscha: Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings; Volume Six: 1998 – 2003, New York: Gagosian Gallery, 2013, no. P2001.23, p. 252 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    “I’m not really painting mountains, but an idea of mountains.”
    Ed Ruscha

    Ed Ruscha’s text-based paintings have revolutionized the relationship between the visual and the semiotic. As a West Coast artist, Ruscha fully embraced the visual culture of Los Angeles and both its natural and artificial landscapes. This made him a leading figure in the early emergence of the West Coast Pop Art scene. Inspired by the text based works of fellow Pop artists Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg, Ruscha pursued a lifelong artistic exploration into the formal elements of printed text and its fluid relationship to the visual image. The present lot, Porch Crop, 2001, the first palindrome painting created by the artist, is a splendid and imposing composition that fully represents the artist’s determined mastery of color and form. By culling words, images and phrases that have been imprinted in his memory and that are found in mass media (print culture, advertising billboards, etc.), his work often serves as a visual encyclopedia of American culture. The artist has said, “Some [words] are found, ready-made, some are dreams, some come from newspapers. They are finished by blind faith. No matter if I've seen it on television or read it in the newspaper, my mind seems to wrap itself around that thing until it's done.” (Ed Ruscha in J. Sterbak "Premeditated: An Interview with Ed Ruscha," Real Life Magazine, Summer 1985)

    Hollywood and its visual symbols have remained at the forefront of Ruscha’s imagery. The present lot, painted in 2001, depicts the crisp, snow covered mountains associated with the famous Paramount Pictures logo. The pyramidal mountain has been Paramount’s logo since it was founded in 1912 and has become synonymous with the opening credits of iconic American films. The present lot depicts a sharply defined mountain range rendered in varying hues of azure. White sunlight hits the top ridges of the mountains, highlighting the creases of snow that have accumulated at the greatest heights. The mountain range in this work is not identical to the Paramount logo, which has been modified over time. As if speaking to Hollywood directly, Ruscha imposes the stenciled palindrome “Porch Crop” over the scenic view. Porch Crop represents Ruscha’s first use of a palindrome - a word in which the letters read identically forwards and backwards - in painting and the connotations are multiplicitous, as “cropping” is central to cinematic editing, while the idea of a porch crop conjures a leisurely view of the mountains. The deep blues of the glossy landscape and icy white letters emit a cool, consumer-driven image, but the quality of the typography is below what one may call “industry standards.”

    The picture balances the sublime majesty of the mountainous motif with its commonplace commercial appropriation. The integrity of the natural wonder is modified, even defaced and compromised, by the neutral presence of the text. Ruscha explains his own complicated sense of these dramatic landscape elements: “the mountains emerged from my connection to landscape, and experiencing it, and especially from driving across country. In the western half of the United States mountains just erupt from this flat landscape. They’re based on specific mountains and alterations and photographs, but they’re not really mountains in the sense that a naturalist would paint a picture of a mountain. They’re ideas of mountains, picturing some sort of unobtainable bliss or glory—rock and ways to fall, dangerous and beautiful.” (Ed Ruscha in A. Gopnik, “Bones in the Ice Cream,” Ed Ruscha Paintings, Toronto, 2002, p. 7)

    The cinematic mountains are those seen in travel books, posters, post cards and adventure movies. Silhouetted against a matte sky, the mountains seem to be cut-outs, a backdrop for a movie set. They flatten and muffle the adventurous potential of what lies beyond. The text applied with a stencil in Ed Ruscha’s own font is styleless, and as Ruscha explains, is “one of my own inventions, which I call ‘Boy Scout Utility Modern’. If the telephone company was having a picnic and asked one of their employees to design a poster, this font is what he’d come up with. There are no curves to the letters – they’re all straight lines – and I’ve been using it for years. I guess it’s my font, because it’s become comfortable to me, and I can’t get beyond it – and don’t need to get beyond it.” (Ed Ruscha in K. McKenna, “Ed Ruscha in Conversation with Kristine McKenna,” Ed Ruscha: Fifty Years of Painting, exh. cat., Hayward Gallery, London 2009, p. 58)

    Ruscha has always emphasized the meaninglessness of the words he executes in paint, he famously stated: “I like the idea of a word becoming a picture, almost leaving its body, then coming back and becoming a word again.” Ruscha has pioneered the notion of words as visual abstractions, inducing a physical reaction based on their chosen hue, typography or context. “Words have temperatures to me. When they reach a certain point and become hot words, then they appeal to me….,” the artist explains. Ruscha’s precise unification of word, tone and setting creates a visceral experience, sometimes one of red hot anger, or as in the present lot, one of icy detachment. Art historically, mountainous imagery “has always served as a visual shorthand for the sublime, from the pantheist canvases of Caspar David Friedrich and the Catskills of the Hudson River School to Ansel Adams’s photographs of the Rockies . Mountains, in their everyday untouchability, still seem like residences for the gods. But Ruscha resists knee-jerk spiritualism (and, one might argue, his own often mentioned dormant Catholicism) by emblazoning slogans that render the scenes absurd” (M. Schwendener, “Ed Ruscha—Reviews”, ArtForum, New York, November, 2002)

    The present lot, Porch Crop is ablaze with visual absurdity, the white lettering spells “Porch Crop” instead of “Pork Chop” making even the central element of the composition look like a blunder or typographical error. The text seems to float, suspended within the metaphysical sublime; a liminal space located between two elements of nature. Yet in Ruscha’s painting even the reality of a natural environment is questioned as part of just another advertising campaign, making his whole composition one of contradictions and dismantled realism, just like the imagery and false realities of Hollywood itself. “A lot of my paintings are anonymous backdrops for the drama of words. In a way, they're words in front of an old Paramount Studios mountain. You don't have to have a mountain back there - you could have a landscape, a farm. I have a background, foreground. It's so simple. And the backgrounds are of no particular character. They're just meant to support the drama, like the Hollywood sign being held up by sticks.” (E. Ruscha quoted in R.D. Marshall, Ed Ruscha, London 2003, p. 239)

  • 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


Ο ◆19

Porch Crop

acrylic on canvas
64 x 72 in. (162.6 x 182.9 cm)
Signed and dated "Ed Ruscha 2001" on the reverse.
This work is Ed Ruscha's first use of a palindrome in a painting.

$1,800,000 - 2,500,000 

Sold for $2,165,000

Contact Specialist
Amanda Stoffel
Head of Evening Sale
New York
+ 1 212 940 1261

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Evening Sale 14 May 2015 7pm