Ed Ruscha - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale New York Wednesday, May 17, 2017 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    James Corcoran Gallery, Los Angeles
    Private Collection, Sweden
    Sotheby's, New York, November 9, 1989, lot 357
    Private Collection, Tokyo

  • Exhibited

    Williamstown, Williams College Museum of Art, Edward Ruscha: Words Without Thoughts Never to Heaven Go, July 2 - September 16, 1988
    Tokyo, Museum of Contemporary Art, We Love Painting: The Contemporary American Art from Misumi Collection, December 21, 2002 - March 23, 2003, p. 155 (illustrated)
    Tottori Prefectural Museum, Contemporary Voice: The Contemporary American Art from Misumi Collection, November 19 - December 25, 2005, p. 93 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    “They are almost not words…They are objects that become words" Ed Ruscha

    In the present lot, two celestial ovals mirror one another in a parallel composition as they float aimlessly in a sea of rich blue pigment. In his characteristic way, the American master of text and image Ed Ruscha presents a visual juxtaposition in its truest form, utilizing each of these elements in harmony. The difference in the scale of these two shapes is heightened when the viewer realizes that the larger oval is inscribed inconspicuously along its bottom edge with the words “miniature nightmares”, while the smaller reads “microscopic migraines”. These mysterious phrases are contextually muted by Ruscha’s choice of midnight blue pigment to surround them, which provides a soothing complement to the mention of a nightmare and a migraine. Together with an almost extra-terrestrial presence, both shapes transport the mind into a virtual trans as Ruscha challenges the viewer to interpret this “nightmare” and “migraine” as they wish. As the rings radiate blue, the eye cannot help but wander in circles.

    Executed in 1985, this work on paper was completed the very same year Ruscha received his first public art commission to paint the rotunda mural of the Miami-Dade Public Library. Inspired by the architectural space, Ruscha began to play with the oval shape in his works on paper, utilizing the same blue color field that he employed in the production of the mural. While other works on paper from this year also feature the celestial ring and rich dry pigment, Nightmares and Migraines stands out as one of the only ones to include indiscrete text within these spheres, inspiring the artist to combine the forms of text and shape in a single composition as he did in the finished mural, completed in 1989. As such, the present lot exhibits the qualities of a masterwork in its own right, while serving as a unique exploration of the visual motifs that permeate the artist’s prolific oeuvre.

  • 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.

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Nightmares and Migraines

signed and dated "Ed Ruscha 1985" lower right
dry pigment and acrylic on paper
40 x 60 in. (101.6 x 152.4 cm.)
Executed in 1985, this work will be included in Edward Ruscha, Catalogue Raisonné of the Works on Paper, Volume 2: 1977-1997, edited by Lisa Turvey (forthcoming).

$200,000 - 300,000 

Sold for $370,000

Contact Specialist
John McCord
Head of Day Sale
New York
+1 212 940 1261

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

New York Auction 17 May 2017