Ed Ruscha - Contemporary Art Part I New York Monday, November 8, 2010 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Leo Castelli Gallery, New York; Mrs. Herbert Lee, Belmont, Massachusetts; Galerie Rolf Ricke, Cologne; Private Collection, Germany; Sale: Sotheby’s, London, Contemporary Art (Evening), February 6, 2003, lot 1; James Corcoran Gallery, Los Angeles; Edward Tyler Nahem Gallery, New York

  • Exhibited

    Frankfurt am Main, Frankfurter Kunstverein, Kunst Nach 45 aus Frankfurter Privatbesitz, October 7 – November 27, 1983; Frankfurt am Main, Portikus, On Kawara – Wieder und Wider – Again and Against, March 19 – April 26, 1989, no. 7; New York, Edward Tyler Nahem Gallery, Ed Ruscha Selected Works, May 6 - June 30, 2005

  • Literature

    Kunst Nach 45 aus Frankfurter Privatbesitz, Frankfurt, 1983, p. 316 (illustrated); O. Kawara, On Kawara - Weider und Wider – Again and Against, Frankfurt, 1989 (illustrated); H. Foster, “Ruscha Productions,” Ed Ruscha Selected Works, New York, 2005, pp. 9 and 22-23 (illustrated); R. Dean and E. Wright, Edward Ruscha Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings Volume Two: 1971-1982, Germany, 2005, p. 40, no. P1972.08 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Throughout his five decades of work, Ed Ruscha has developed a sophisticated engagement with the tension between language and image.  Deeply influenced by the disruptive actions of Dada and the materiality of Jasper Johns, he has approached words and phrases as an artistic medium that is transformed in his deft hands. Ruscha has treated language as a ready-made, a found object; isolating his carefully selected examples of speech on painted grounds that toy with the notion of perspective and the illusion of the picture plane. He set his subjects apart not only from the verbal context of other words, but often from the world that they refer to. In the process he has incanted spaces in which the viewer can fully engage in the meanings and resonances, forms and sounds that each utterance evokes. 
    In creating this gap, Ruscha has subjected various words in his paintings to extreme manipulations, from setting Damage ablaze to clamping and pinching Dimple, Boss and Radio. These visual techniques created the illusion of the painted word as having physical mass. This trope was further explored in his Liquid paintings, which depict words composed of various viscous substances: maple syrup, oil, milk, or water. 
    At the same time Ruscha was exploring these trompe l’oeil effects, he began a series of single words painted on grounds of gradated caustic colors.  Ruscha depicted each word in the font Stymie Ex Bold. Each individual letter was set further apart than in standard typography which accentuated the illusion of levity. In addition the spacing lent each character an autonomy that prevented the word from formally coalescing in a natural manner. This subtle shift in position is less aggressive than the early deformations of text but the effect is no less jarring. 
    As if forming from the noxious fumes of primeval creation, these word paintings possess no context or visual reference to anchor the word to an earth bound existence. The utterance is suspended in a hazy purgatory, which alludes to but never imposes a landscape. Similar to the exercise of repeating a word until its meaning evaporates into pure sound, Ruscha’s slight spatial gestures uncover the vagary of the production of meaning from speech. The formal concerns are but one element to the composition. It is Ruscha’s selection of word that elicits the most resonance. It is the supposed temperature of a word that attracts him to them. “Words have temperature to me. When they reach a certain point and become hot words, then they appeal to me.”
    Production is clearly a very hot word. From an early period Ruscha has been drawn to the power of words that evoke the artifice of the film industry. His painting of the 20th Century Fox trademark in 1962 and his 1968 screen print of the Hollywood sign, used ubiquitous images of movie making to illustrate elements that have remained central to his work. With his choice of the word Production, Ruscha has made the link to film explicit, evoking the collective enterprise of making and marketing a movie. Ruscha has referred to himself as a frustrated filmmaker and in the year prior to Production, he directed his first film, Premium. “With a painting you don’t get a running storyline from beginning to end, you are confronted instead by something smack, face-on, something which doesn’t move.”
    Production evokes the film studio, the painting studio and the factory floor, but it is to the act of painting that Ruscha returns:
    “I find that painting offers more possibilities than movies.”

  • 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



Oil on canvas.
20 x 24 in. (50.8 x 61 cm).
Signed, titled and dated “1972 Ed Ruscha 'Production'” on the stretcher bar.

$600,000 - 800,000 

Sold for $662,500

Contemporary Art Part I

8 November 2010
New York