Ed Ruscha - New Now New York Tuesday, September 24, 2019 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Leo Castelli Gallery, New York
    Livet Reichard Company, New York
    Shoshana Wayne Gallery, Los Angeles
    Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1989

  • Literature

    Lisa Turvey, ed., Edward Ruscha, Catalogue Raisonné of the works on paper, Volume 2: 1977 – 1997, New York, 2018, D1989.10, p. 437 (illustrated, p. 284)

  • Catalogue Essay

    “Sometimes I wonder whether I’m painting pictures of words or painting pictures with words.”

    While cruising down the Pacific Coast Highway, Ed Ruscha encountered the nature of mid-20th Century American culture through the view from his car window. Quintessentially Californian in method, Ruscha’s reflections on the simplicity of life are encompassed in the artist’s iconic wittiness and surrealist depictions of light. Escaping the bounds of a traditional narrative, Ruscha’s High-Speed Gardening, 1989 fuses the seemingly disparate themes of fixed language and abstracted light.

    Moving from Oklahoma to Los Angeles in the late 1950s, Ruscha worked temporarily as a commercial sign-painter. Inspired by his previous occupation, the artist found particular interest in the use of words, the infiniteness to them and their unique ability to construct and confound meaning. Ruscha’s use of language is poetically paradoxical and playfully random. The salience of the de-contextualized phrase “High-Speed Gardening” is a visual enigma for the viewers – surprisingly absent of an underlying message. His words are actually a humorous dichotomy that encapsulates a typical Los Angeles lifestyle; simultaneously bustling and tranquil. Subverting the narrative of painting, Ruscha plays with the viewers’ expectations, much like the clear L.A. light that both illuminates and exists purely on the surface of things.

    Composed of a velvety yellow-green color gradient, the background is seamlessly interjected by the cast shadow of a windowpane. As with the use of language, these beams of light obviate a clear source. A reoccurring motif in Ruscha’s oeuvre from the mid to late 1980s, the window (or suggestion of it) proposes “an idea about light” allowing the viewer to peer into a world far beyond the surface. (Ed Ruscha quoted in Kristine McKenna, “Lightening Up the Getty", Los Angeles Times, May 24, 1998, online). There is something particularly uncanny about the imagery’s cool subtlety that belies any tangible narrative.

    Commenting on the under-represented aspects of everyday life, Ruscha utilizes surrealist visual themes to tie together the relevance of language and light in Los Angeles living. The artist grasps inspiration from the simplest happenings of life - his gratitude for reflected light, the daily use of language and how they each bring personal associations to the surface, both exquisitely represented in High-Speed Gardening.

  • 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


High-Speed Gardening

signed and dated "Ed Ruscha '89" lower right
dry pigment on paper
23 x 29 in. (58.4 x 73.7 cm.)
Executed in 1989.

$180,000 - 250,000 

Sold for $250,000

Contact Specialist
Sam Mansour
Associate Specialist, Head of New Now Sale
New York
+1 212 940 1219

New Now

New York Auction 24 September 2019