Ed Ruscha - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale London Thursday, February 13, 2020 | Phillips

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  • Video

    Ed Ruscha, 'Emergency Numbers', Lot 182

    20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, 14 February

  • Provenance

    Florette Bihari, Beverly Hills (acquired circa 1975)
    Private Collection (acquired by descent from the above)
    Sotheby's, New York, 22 September 2011, lot 175
    Gagosian Gallery, London
    Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2015

  • Exhibited

    Los Angeles, Ace Gallery, Edward Ruscha: New Works in Various Materials Plus the 1969 Book of Stains, 25 September - 16 October 1973

  • Literature

    Ed Ruscha, They Called Her Styrene, London, 2000, n.p. (illustrated)
    Lisa Turvey, Edward Ruscha Catalogue Raisonné of the Works on Paper Volume One: 1956-1976, New York, 2014, no. D1973.66, p. 349 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Words are pattern-like, and in their horizontality they answer my investigation into landscape. They’re almost not words – they are objects that become words.’ - Ed Ruscha

    Emergency Numbers, 1973, is an exquisite example of Ed Ruscha’s unique artistic practice. The two words ‘Emergency Numbers’ are executed in gothic script and rendered in the negative space against a woody textured background. Ruscha’s choice of typeface and use of unconventional materials – cherry juice stained paper – intentionally possess no relevance to the meaning of the text. The present work exemplifies the artist’s experimentation with materials which typify the American experience such as blood, food, condiments and gunpowder, perhaps most famously in Stains, 1969 (Museum of Modern Art, New York), which comprises of 76 sheets of paper, each stained with a different substance such as Wine, Coffee and LA tap Water.

    Ruscha began his career in graphic design, studying lettering, design and advertising at the Chouinard Art Institute, however he soon turned to fine art under the influence of Abstract Expressionists such as Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg. In the early 1960s Ruscha harnessed single words as the protagonists of his pictures in contrast to artists such as John Badessari and Joseph Kosuth who used text as part of the narrative of the work. Through isolating or repeating Ruscha theorised that you could ‘drive the meaning from the word and from the sound of the word’ (Walter Hopps “A Conversation between Walter Hopps and Edward Ruscha” in Yves-Alain Bois, Edward Ruscha: Romance with Liquids, Paintings 1966-1969, exh. cat., Gagosian Gallery, New York, pp. 97-108).

  • 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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Emergency Numbers

cherry stain and cherry juice on paper
19.1 x 73.7 cm (7 1/2 x 29 in.)
Executed in 1973.

£90,000 - 120,000 

Sold for £100,000

Contact Specialist

Tamila Kerimova
Specialist, Head of Day Sale, Director, 20th Century & Contemporary Art

44 20 7318 4065

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

London Auction 14 February 2020