Ed Ruscha - Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Tuesday, October 13, 2015 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Gagosian Gallery, New York
    McCabe Fine Art

  • Catalogue Essay

    'Some [words] are found, ready-made, some are dreams, some come from newspapers. They are finished by blind faith. No matter if I've seen it on television or read it in the newspaper, my mind seems to wrap itself around that thing until it's done.' (Ed Ruscha in J. Sterbak "Premeditated: An Interview with Ed Ruscha," Real Life Magazine, Summer 1985)

    Ed Ruscha’s name has become synonymous with the Southern Californian Pop Art scene. As one of the key proponents of an aesthetic centred on visual signs and textual slogans, Ruscha grew to fame in the late 1950s by aligning himself with the artistic preoccupations of Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns. He had moved to Los Angeles in the mid-1950s, and immediately found his artistic purpose within its streets and culture. Capitalising on the bombardment of images in the fast-paced city celebrated as the nation’s centre of the film and television industry, Ruscha built his career by reflecting the very culture he was dwelling in. Cinematic panoramic sunsets and dramatic horizons juxtapose against stencilled tag lines creating paintings that resemble adverts or film posters.

    Pneumatic Muscles Hydraulic Smiles (2010) embodies Ruscha’s mature style. Seemingly unrelated words dominate the surface of the painting in a manner akin to the credits appearing over a film still at the movies. The cinematic quality is heightened by the imposing characters of the words displayed. Muscles and Smiles are perhaps a further nod to the Hollywood genre where the macho leading man and beautiful leading lady dominate film roles. However, the inclusion of industrial-specific terms such as Pneumatic and Hydraulic gives way to intrinsic questions about the work’s meaning. How can smiles be hydraulic? Pneumatic derives from power supplied through compressed air – could Ruscha be commenting on the superficiality of Hollywood with its muscular protagonists or even how fake the entire genre is? Alternatively, perhaps this is a remark on California in general with its burgeoning cosmetic surgery propagating the idea that the image one projects is more important than the truth. As times change, the meaning of this painting develops and evolves. Pneumatic Muscles Hydraulic Smiles lies open to interpretation; in fact, it solely relies on the viewer to formulate a coherent meaning from the puzzle of words and images supplied by the artist and it is precisely this that continues to add to its appeal.

    Majestic concepts are juxtaposed with banal slogans just as beautiful landscapes are intersected by rude taglines in many of Ruscha’s works. Through playful palindromes the artist gives voice to the ideas that preoccupy him but equally offers a means for viewers to express their own thoughts. As is typical of Ruscha’s most eloquent works, the power of Pneumatic Muscles Hydraulic Smiles lies in its ability to capture the beholder on both an aesthetic and intellectual level.

  • 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.

    View More Works

Property from the Estate of Dr. Fredric S. Brandt, Miami

Ο ◆14

Pneumatic Muscles Hydraulic Smiles

acrylic on canvas
66.5 x 81.5 cm (26 1/8 x 32 1/8 in.)
Signed and dated 'Ed Ruscha 2010' on the reverse. This work is numbered P.2010. 02 on the studio label on the reverse.

£300,000 - 500,000 

Sold for £386,500

Contact Specialist
Peter Sumner
Head of Contemporary Art, London
[email protected]
+44 207 318 4063

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London 14 October 2015 7pm