Start Over Please

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  • Condition Report

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  • Provenance

    Gagosian, Los Angeles
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    Phoenix Art Museum, July 13 - November 9, 2015 (on loan)

  • Video

    Ed Ruscha, 'Start Over Please', Lot 25

    20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale, 14 October

  • Catalogue Essay

    “Words have temperatures to me. When they reach a certain point and become hot words, then they appeal to me…Sometimes I have a dream that if a word gets too hot and too appealing, it will boil apart, and I won’t be able to read or think of it. Usually I catch them before they get too hot” - Ed Ruscha

    Start Over Please showcases Ed Ruscha’s unmatched ability to combine text and image in a way that is at once familiar and enigmatic. Painted in 2015, a year before two major solo exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego and the de Young Museum, San Francisco, the present work reproduces the text “START OVER PLEASE” against a backdrop of a burning sunset. Possessing the cinematic drama of credits rolling at the end of a film, the composition is infused with references to Ruscha’s hometown of Los Angeles. Indeed, Hollywood has continually served as inspiration in the artist’s practice through mediums of painting, drawing, printmaking and photography. The artificiality of a movie set is felt here in Start Over Please, as text is placed over a saturated landscape that feels both real and fake, nostalgic and dream-like.

    In the late 1970s, Ruscha began using landscapes as backgrounds to his text paintings, a device he has continued to employ today as exemplified in the present work. The artist attributes his long road trips from Oklahoma to California, where he moved to in 1956, as planting the first seeds of inspiration for depicting landscapes ranging from sunsets to mountainscapes to street scenes. The fusion of these settings with language two decades later led to some of the most successful paintings in the artist’s oeuvre. As he explains, “Words are pattern-like, and in their horizontality across the canvas, they answer my investigation into landscape” (Ed Ruscha, quoted in Bernard Blistène, “Coversation with Ed Ruscha” in Edward Ruscha, exh. cat., Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, 1990, n.p.). In their use of a horizon line, works like Start Over Please can certainly be placed squarely within the canon of landscape painting. “By placing texts over images of dramatic skies, suburban streets, and nocturnal cityscapes, [Ruscha] now developed a new type of picture that fused the illusionistic depth of traditional landscape with the flat space of typography” (Ralph Rugoff, Ed Ruscha: Fifty Years of Painting, exh. cat., Hayward Gallery, London, 2010, p. 19).

    In the present work, Ruscha uses his own designed font, Boy Scout Utility Modern—which he coined in the 1980s—positioning the three words in center alignment, equidistant from the edges of the near-square canvas on each side. It was also in the 1970s when the artist started using short phrases as in the present work, a departure from the single word paintings which occupied the earlier part of his career. Of these phrases, Ralph Rugoff explained, “While often enigmatic or ambiguous, they could also seem vaguely familiar: indeed, many were ‘ready-made’ phrases taken from books, movies, technical manuals and songs, as well as things heard on the radio or in conversation” (Ralph Rugoff, Ed Ruscha: Fifty Years of Painting, exh. cat., Hayward Gallery, London, 2010, p. 19). One could almost hear the words “Start Over Please” spoken by a character in a film, a teacher in a classroom, or a top executive in conversation.

    While often Ruscha’s text seems to have little to do with the background on which it is placed, sometimes the phrases do engage with their surface. Here, the three words are strategically positioned over five horizontal bands of color. Tones shift from cold to cool to warm to hot, with “START” placed starkly against a deep midnight blue and “PLEASE” over a fiery red. This aesthetic transition seems to soften the blow of the instructive demand, a polite plea ending the request to “start over.” As Ruscha himself said, “Words have temperatures to me. When they reach a certain point and become hot words, then they appeal to me…Sometimes I have a dream that if a word gets too hot and too appealing, it will boil apart, and I won’t be able to read or think of it. Usually I catch them before they get too hot” (Ed Ruscha, quoted in Ed Ruscha: Fifty Years of Painting, exh. cat., Hayward Gallery, London, 2010, pp. 46-47).

    The heat of the lower part of the composition is quintessential of Ruscha’s flaming sunsets which have reappeared many times in his oeuvre. The artist has relied on this palette again and again—one which resembles the Surrealist landscapes of René Magritte—appearing as early as the late 1960s. The narrow strip of warmth in Start Over Please is perhaps most similar to that which is used in Sunset—Gardner Cross, 1998-1999, The Broad, Los Angeles. In this work, a sliver of vibrant orange is placed atop a gradient of gray illustrating a city street, an inversion of the composition in the present work, whereby tones move from dark to light. As Karin Breuer describes of Sunset—Gardner Cross, “A ‘Technicolor’ sunset glows in the western sky above city streets…like an inferno that has scorched the landscape, leaving it charred and wasted. Is it the same awe-inducing view that Ruscha observed on his 1956 arrival in the city, or a more ominous, contemporary vision?” Start Over Please illustrates the same technicolor dreamscape which she describes here, one which Breuer further classifies as an almost “apocalyptic suggestion” (Karin Breuer, Ed Ruscha and the Great American West, exh. cat., de Young Museum, San Francisco, 2016, p. 109). Ruscha has frequently cited this preoccupation. “Things like nuclear energy are slowly building up, and it’s only a matter of time before something catastrophic happens. Unfortunately, we like trouble—that just seems to be a part of human nature” (Ed Ruscha, quoted in Ed Ruscha: Fifty Years of Painting, exh. cat., Hayward Gallery, London, 2010, p. 59).

    In Start Over Please, this apocalyptic reference is infused with irony in its title, as if it suggests a new beginning, or a fresh start, to re-building the world in which we live. The work is a direct counterpart to paintings from decades earlier, such as End, 1983, Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation, Los Angeles, also placed atop an apocalyptic sunset – a more literal, and therefore less optimistic interpretation of the world’s demise. Ruscha’s ability to transform the meanings of colloquial phrases can be no better explained than by Robert Dean: “For words have a life of their own in the work of Ed Ruscha. So much so that they can sit atop a mountain and on top of the painted surface while hardly affecting either. Their presence is oracular without the pomp, vernacular without the vulgarity, aloof even when familiar or intimate. And their autonomy is uncanny, without origin or destination, literally out of the blue…attaching unresolved puzzlement to the gaping interval between word and image” (Robert Dean, ed., Edward Ruscha: Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings, Volume Seven: 2004-2011, New York, 2016, p. 7).

  • Artist Bio

    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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25

Property from an Important West Coast Collector

Ed Ruscha

Start Over Please

signed and dated "Ed Ruscha 2015" on the reverse
oil on canvas
64 x 72 in. (162.6 x 182.9 cm.)
Painted in 2015, this work will be included in the forthcoming Edward Ruscha: Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings, Volume Eight.

Estimate
$3,500,000 - 4,500,000 

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Contact Specialist

Amanda Lo Iacono
Head of Evening Sale
New York
+1 212 940 1278

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 14 November 2019