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  • Provenance

    Gagosian Gallery, Los Angeles; Timothy Taylor Gallery, London

  • Literature

    "Ed Rusha Comparative Shopping list", The AA Newspaper, December 3, 2004; H. Foster, "From Windscreen to Widescreen: On Set with Ed Ruscha", Modern Painters, June 2005, p. 78 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    "Mountain imagery has always served as a visual shorthand for the sublime, from the pantheist canvases of Caspar David Friedrich and the Catskills of the Hudson River School to Ansel Adams's photographs of the Rockies . Mountains, in their everyday untouchability, still seem like residences for the gods. But Ruscha resists knee-jerk spiritualism (and, one might argue, his own often mentioned dormant Catholicism) by emblazoning slogans that render the scenes absurd."
    (M. Schwendener, "Ed Ruscha – Reviews", ArtForum, New York , November, 2002)

    The context in which Ruscha chooses to depict words is an integral element in his larger body of work. These artistic tools have become pictorial guidelines within the different representational periods of his "word and image" art. The present lot entitled Southwestern Systems, was completed during a period in which Ruscha found himself continually investigating the nature of landscapes, portraying a combination of mountains and words. Here, Ruscha delineates between the role of spatial relationships of text and image, ultimately providing a riveting and surreal visual experience for the viewer.

    “It's not a celebration of nature. I’m not trying to show beauty. It’s more like I’m painting ideas of ideas of mountains. The concept came to me as a logical extension of the landscapes that I’ve been painting for a while - horizontal landscapes, flatlands, the landscape I grew up in. Mountains like this were only ever like a dream to me; they meant Canada or Colorado.”
    (Ed Ruscha, quoted in R. D. Marshall, Ed Ruscha, London, 2003, p. 241).

    The composition, although simplistic in theory is visually serene - it is this simplicity, which makes the work powerful, projecting a stylistic uniqueness. The words “Southwestern Systems” are painted in white. They are spread out across a natural archway created by a rock formation of neutral beige tones and set against a pristinely crisp blue sky. In the present lot, we see the use of a later stylistic technique towards depicting multiple words, a transition from single words as seen in his earlier works, to phrases and multiple words that are vaguely related to the geography of the image. As with the present lot, the mountain series is one that concentrates on using more than a single word within the composition's framework - a style especially obvious in his juxtaposition between word and image. For instance the word “Southwestern” and the image of a rocky mountain may be linked symbolically to the viewer, however, when the phrase is read as a whole "Southwestern Systems", the painting becomes somewhat pictorially ambiguous, throwing odd any immediate connection between word and image. This stylistic feature has become identifiable with Ruscha's paintings throughout his career. Southwestern Systems, is an exemplary work that continues to explore Ruscha's interest in conceptual subject matter, an idea that has occupied his work for more than forty years. It majestically and confidently unites words and phrases with surreal juxtapositions, skies and landscapes, abstraction and representation, ultimately resulting in a powerful and original artistic statement.

  • 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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241

Southwestern Systems

2004
Acrylic on canvas.
48 x 84 in. (121.9 x 213.4 cm).
Signed and dated “Ed Ruscha 2004” on the reverse and numbered “P.2004.24” on an Edward Ruscha Studio label adhered to the reverse stretcher bar.

Estimate
£400,000 - 600,000 

Sold for £400,800

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Evening Sale
13 October 2007, 4pm
London