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  • Provenance

    Ace Gallery, Venice, California; Private Collection

  • Exhibited

    Vancouver, Ace Gallery, Edward Ruscha: Recent Paintings, June – July, 1981; Nagoya City Museum and Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery, Barnsdall Park, Contemporary Los Angeles Artists, April – May, 1982 (illustrated on the poster and announcement); Los Angeles, County Museum of Art, The Works of Edward Ruscha – Part II: 1973 – 1983, March – May, 1983 (illustrated on the announcement); Pasadena, Art Center College of Design, Alyce de Roulet Williamson Gallery, Romance, November 1994 – February 1995.

  • Literature

    Ed Ruscha, Ace Gallery, Artforum, 1980 (illustrated on the back cover)

  • Catalogue Essay

    “The clashing of two unlike things: that is the key to all our problems. Introducing another unplanned thing into a fact of life, an antagonistic thing that somehow makes something new.”
    (Edward Ruscha)
     
    Los Angeles native Edward Ruscha has been producing art since 1958. Originally from Nebraska, he carries a deep engrained attachment to American culture, growing up in the mid-west and later moving his base to the Pacific coast. Through his visual connotations, artworks become artwords, playing on scale, perspective, and depth with letters and their relation to painted backgrounds.
     
    Ruscha’s move to Los Angeles was a turning point in his life. He left a tight knit conservative mid-western town with a Bible belt mentality and found the spacious area and breeze of the west coast. His big break came in 1962 when the Pasadena Art Museum presented ‘New Painting of Common Objects,’ a show that included rising artists Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Wayne Thiebaud, and Phillip Hefferton amongst others which included Ed Ruscha. At the same show, Ruscha and best friend Joe Goode were the youngest artists presenting work mostly from a Graphic Design background in comparison to the New York Pop School with Warhol’s imitation paintings and Lichtenstein’s magnified comics. The show helped the pop-art movement gain critical acceptance amongst the art community and the world. A year later Ruscha was again invited to exhibit, this time at the Pop Art-USA exhibit at the Oakland Museum of Art alongside Mel Ramos, John Wesley and Wally Hedrick. In comparison to other working pop-artists from the 60s generation, Ruscha’s work always eschewed the parodic nature of consumerist pop in favour of a deadpan irony which is just as subversive and perhaps more enduring.   
     
    His past experiences in commercial sign making, bookbinding, printing, and making photographs has resounded acutely in Ruscha’s career. The artist whose work is commonly referred to as ‘California Art’ explains that ‘what has always been labeled as California art is actually California seen through the lens and eyes of mid-western values. This is common amongst artists who have steered away from their typically conservative backgrounds like Ruscha and others like Paul McCarthy who grew up in Salt Lake City and Jim Dine who came to LA from Ohio. Others include David Hockney who found the pleasing sunshine, swimming pools and palm tree settings adjoined to a liberal attitude on the West Coast far more gratifying than that of the dull Britannic shorelines. The liberating surroundings of LA provided for creative’s to leave behind their numb and torpid backgrounds and allowing them to settle within a refreshingly new stage for un-discovered talent.
     
    Ruscha’s first word-art paintings came originally from his love for type and their meaning when placed together to create a word. His first works from 1952 conjoin part paint - part word, normally labeled as graphic design, but here are more like explorations of common day shapes and figures which we find in the newspaper, billboards, and signs in the form of numbers and letters. Packaging and branding were first to be drawn onto canvas by Ruscha but it was clearly in 1962 where he found his clearest and loudest voice by painting works such as Heavy Industry and War Surplus which could easily be seen as movie posters or studies into packaging typography, however, they are meticulously thought out and delicately executed, hanging with an Americana presence, clear to the undertow of Pop art with a twist, heightening our sensibility to the letters presented, forcing us to view the perfection in the shape of the serifs and curvatures around the letters. We are reminded here that letters and type live in a world of their own, sub-consciously in our minds but when exaggerated for us to witness, we take notice in their grand presence within our daily lives.     
     Through exploring visual language and its relation to spoken word, grammar and literature intertwine with soft brushstrokes and smooth plays of paint. In the present lot words resemble dreamlike figures floating in the air or vanishing into an oasis of colorful mirage, each letter carefully selected, each typography giving off a selected feeling, an elegant ‘R’, a bold ‘O’, a punchy ‘M’, a thin ‘A’, a deco-esque ‘N’, a heavy ‘C’ and a fading ‘E’. These are all heedful of their tracking (word spacing) intended by Ruscha to capture the viewer into resonating the conjuncture with a voice in the spectators mind, reading the word at a pace that carefully examines its meaning, questioning our vocabulary and the essence of the written word. His palette of yellows, blues and black hues melt onto the canvas background conjuring a feeling of overlooking an afternoon sunset over a lake or indeed the Pacific Ocean, a phantasmagoria that subtly evokes a feeling of lost or new found love, accurately en-titled Romance. 

  • Artist Biography

    Ed Ruscha

    American • 1937

    Ed Ruscha is an Los Angeles-based artist whose art, like California itself, is both geographically rooted and a metaphor for an American state of mind. A deft creator of photography, film, painting, drawing, prints and artist books, Ruscha has executed works for over 60 years that are simultaneously unexpected and familiar, both ironic and sincere.

    His most iconic works are 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 the post-war world.

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226

Romance

1980
Oil on canvas.
140 x 146.1 cm. (55 1/8 x 57 1/2 in).
Signed and dated ‘Ed Ruscha 1980' on the reverse. 

Estimate
£800,000 - 1,200,000 

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

29 June 2008, 5pm
London