Ruscha, Ed

Ruscha, Ed (Edward Joseph Ruscha 4th)ro͞oshā´ [key], 1937–, American artist, b. Omaha, Neb. He is closely associated with Los Angeles, where he moved to attend (1956–60) the Chouinard Art Institute. Coolly inventive and extremely influential, Ruscha uses imagery and language familiar from popular media and typically mingles various styles including pop art, surrealism, photorealism, and conceptual art. He became known for his paintings of roadside buildings (e.g., Standard Station, Amarillo, Texas, 1963) and Southern California icons (e.g., the 20th Century Fox logo and Hollywood sign) executed in a hard-edged commercial style and for his painted words isolated from context and floating in deep space. He also produced a number of books, the earliest (1963–72) a series of affectless photographs of gas stations, apartment buildings, parking lots, and other Southern California architectural banalities. An accomplished draftsman and printmaker, he often incorporates food, blood, grease, gunpowder, or other unusual materials in his graphic works. Many of his later images feature archetypal American landscapes of snowcapped mountains overlaid with apparently unrelated words and phrases. Among his more recent paintings are the Course of Empire series, five imaginary American manufacturing landscapes from 1992 paired with images of how they would have appeared in 2005; the Psycho-Spaghetti Western paintings (2011), large diagonal landscapes filled with images of American discards and garbage; and Drum Skins (2017–19), round drumheads painted with double-negative phrases recalled from his Oklahoma childhood.

See A. Schwartz, ed., Leave Any Information at the Signal: Writings, Interviews, Bits, Pages (2004); studies by S. Engberg, ed. (1999), N. Benezra et al. (2000), R. D. Marshall (2003), P. Poncy, ed. (2004), M. Rowell (2004), S. Wolf (2004), and A. Schwartz (2010).

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