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  • "'Hollywood' is like a verb to me. It's something you can do to any subject or any thing. You can take something in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Hollywoodize it....'Hollywood dreams' -- I mean think about it. Close your eyes and what does it mean, visually? It means a ray of light, actually, to me rather than a success story. And so I play around with the ray of light rather than with the success story...I'm not so much interested in words as I am in the evocative power of them."
    —Ed Ruscha

    Since the late 1960s, Ed Ruscha has returned time and time again to the Hollywood sign through mediums of drawing, printing, and painting. With its block letters set against the backdrop of a mountainous city and sunlit sky, the landmark has remained a beacon for the artist—both for its simplicity as well as its symbolism. As Lisa Pasquariello explains, “Ruscha was initially interested in the landmark as a barometric object: the Western Avenue studio he moved to in 1965 afforded a view of it, and he predicted a day’s weather based on how visible the sign was through the smog. And though he talks about the city as ‘full of illusions’ and remembers that in deciding to move west from Oklahoma he was ‘attracted to the concept of Hollywood,’ Ruscha’s various depictions of the sign emphasize the substance behind the concept.”i

     

    Lloyd Ziff, Edward Ruscha's "The Back of Hollywood" Billboard, Wilshire Blvd., The Miracle Mile, Los Angeles, CA, 1978, printed 2015. Purchased with funds provided by Lynda and Robert Shapiro (M.2016.105.2) © Lloyd Ziff. Digital Image © 2021 Museum Associates / LACMA. Licensed by Art Resource, NY
    Lloyd Ziff, Edward Ruscha's "The Back of Hollywood" Billboard, Wilshire Blvd., The Miracle Mile, Los Angeles, CA, 1978, printed 2015. Purchased with funds provided by Lynda and Robert Shapiro (M.2016.105.2) © Lloyd Ziff. Digital Image © 2021 Museum Associates / LACMA. Licensed by Art Resource, NY

    The most obvious reason for Ruscha’s constant revisiting of the subject is due to its textual form. The artist’s prolific oeuvre is, at its core, defined by the use of text in art—a visual lexicon employed to challenge traditional notions of high art. In Holloween, 1977, Ruscha uses two familiar words to play upon his viewers’ preconceived notions. What we expect is to see “Hollywood” splayed atop the mountain silhouette, but instead, we see “Holloween.” Once our brains recognize the similarity of this word to another familiar one, “Halloween,” we realize the word is misspelled. This is one example in which Ruscha has used the Hollywood sign to generate a variety of plays on words, another one being his large-scale painting made the same year, The Back of Hollywood, where we see instead the letters in mirror-image, as if viewed from behind.

     

    Housed in an esteemed private collection for decades, Ruscha’s Holloween is a prime example of the artist’s simple, yet poignant compositions rendered in a variety of mediums. Here Ruscha has used pastel to illustrate an orange sky with a subtle gradient, from which the soft block letters emerge on top of the horizon line. Warm sunsets dominate so many of Ruscha’s most celebrated drawings and paintings, and here its depiction is particularly serene. The composition is made even more harmonious in the way that the letters sit atop Mount Lee as if resting on a table top surface. This furthers Ruscha’s satirical comment, as if he is grounding the grandiose concept of Hollywood and all that it stands for, helping fellow Angelenos to realize their seemingly impossible dreams in the city of pictures.

     


    i Lisa Pasquariello, “Ed Ruscha and the Language That He Used,” October Magazine 111, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, New York, Winter 2005, p. 95.

    • Provenance

      Gagosian Gallery, New York
      The Donald Marron Collection, New York (acquired from the above in August 2006)
      Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2020

    • Exhibited

      New York, Whitney Museum of American Art; Los Angeles, The Museum of Contemporary Art; Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art, Cotton Puffs, Q-Tips, Smoke and Mirrors: The Drawings of Ed Ruscha, June 24, 2004–May 30, 2005, pl. 151, p. 193 (illustrated)
      East Hampton, Pace Gallery, Works on Paper from a Distinguished Private Collection: A co-presentation by Acquavella Galleries, Gagosian, and Pace, August 12–20, 2020

    • Literature

      Lisa Pasquariello, “Ed Ruscha and the Language That He Used,” October, no. 111, Winter 2005, p. 96
      Lisa Turvey, ed., Edward Ruscha, Catalogue Raisonné of the Works on Paper, Volume 2: 1977–1997, New York, 2018, D1977.37, p. 64 (illustrated)

    • 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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Ο109

Holloween

signed and dated "Ed Ruscha 1977" lower right
pastel on paper
7 7/8 x 29 in. (20 x 73.7 cm)
Executed in 1977.

Full Cataloguing

Estimate
$200,000 - 300,000 

Sold for $289,800

Contact Specialist

John McCord
Head of Day Sale, Morning Session
New York
+1 212 940 1261

[email protected]

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session

New York Auction 24 June 2021