Ed Ruscha - 20th C. & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session New York Wednesday, November 13, 2019 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Leo Castelli Gallery, New York
    Galerie Françoise Lambert, Milan
    Gino Di Maggio, Milan
    Sotheby's, London, June 26, 2003, lot 133
    Gagosian Gallery, New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Literature

    Lisa Turvey, ed., Edward Ruscha, Catalogue Raisonné of the works on paper, Volume One: 1956-1976, New York, 2014, no. D1973.24, p. 333 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Executed in 1973, Ed Ruscha’s Two Sheets with Whisky Stains belongs to a series of roughly three dozen works on paper made between 1971 and 1973 in gunpowder. Each illustrating blank, suspended sheets of paper as if ripped and dropped from a sketchbook, the work’s titles are so named after their subject and a material used to “stain” the paper, whether foodstuffs, chemicals or fluids. Two Sheets with Whisky Stains depicts two sheets of paper lightly stained with Scotch whisky atop a background of gray rendered in gunpowder, dark shadows cast beneath them. The resulting image possesses a trompe l’oeil effect; as if airbrushed, the surface is so precise one could almost grab the stained sheets from the two-dimensional surface.

    Of his use of gunpowder, Ruscha said, “I soaked some gunpowder in water once and I saw it separated all the salt out of it. I just did it as an experiment…I could see it would make a good choice of materials; it could actually impregnate on paper. You could use it almost like charcoal…Graphite was much more laborious, but it has a different feel altogether...So gunpowder was simple, it was easy to get going” (Ed Ruscha, quoted in Alexandra Schwartz, ed., Leave Any Information at the Signal, Writings, Interviews, Bits, Pages, Cambridge, 2002, pp. 155-156).

    Adding substances ranging from alcohol to the oil from fruits and spices, Ruscha continued these experimentations in unconventional mediums with the sheet drawings. Following his ribbon text works of 1966-1971, these works would “advance the representational riddle of the ribbon drawings: a sheet of paper is pictured illusionistically on a paper ground via the subtractive process of masking out, so the object figured as three-dimensional is actually the flattest and least worked area of the support. Paper and stain, both, are simultaneously real and represented; the stain, in penetrating the support and affirming its flatness, destroys the pretense of illusionism even as it comprises part of an illusionistic rendering” (Lisa Turvey, Edward Ruscha, Catalogue Raisonné of the Works on Paper, Volume One: 1956-1976, New York, 2014, p. 32). As such, works like Two Sheets with Whisky Stains are the first self-referential pieces in Ruscha’s prolific oeuvre, representing a pivotal shift from the literal to the conceptual.

  • 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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A Discerning Vision Property from an Important Private Collection

Ο ◆114

Two Sheets with Whisky Stains

signed and dated "Edward Ruscha 1973" lower left
gunpowder and Scotch whisky on paper
14 1/2 x 22 7/8 in. (36.9 x 58.4 cm.)
Executed in 1973.

$280,000 - 350,000 

Sold for $524,000

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

20th C. & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session

New York Auction 13 November 2019