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Ed Ruscha

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Ed Ruscha (b. 1937) is internationally recognized as one of the most important American artists associated with the Pop Art movement. An interdisciplinary artist, Ruscha works in painting, printmaking, film, photography, drawing, and artist books. He rose to prominence in the 1960s, and is known widely for his work that incorporates text and his stylized representations of Hollywood logos and gas stations. Influenced by the irreverent sensibility of Pop Art, his work employs themes of urbanity, banality, and mass production.

Born in Omaha, NE, and raised in Oklahoma City, OK, Ruscha moved to Los Angeles in 1956 to study at Chouinard Art Institute. Ruscha began his career as a graphic designer and layout artist for a Los Angeles advertisement agency, where he honed his skills in schematic design.  The artist’s early work in commercial art as well his childhood interest for comic books and graphic design led to a deep scepticism of traditional hierarchies of painting and sculpture.

In his seminal photographic essays depicting mundane and objects and commonplace architectural features, the artist began to toy with scale, abstraction and viewpoint. In January 1963, Ruscha published Twentysix Gasoline Stations, the first of his 16 artist books of the 1960s and 1970s.

Ruscha further considered the materiality of an artwork and its dual identity as both a physical object and a visual projection of an idea. From this thought experiment, Ruscha produced his iconic  word-paintings, in which the artist played on the work’s double role as both a word and a painting of a word—the verbalization of the visual. In his text pieces, Ruscha employs onomatopeias, alliterations and puns to impress on his viewers striking, immediate impressions.

In the late 1960s, Ruscha turned his interest to traditional printmaking—a medium that would prove enduringly important in his artistic practice. Attracted to the reproducibility and spontaneity of the medium, Ruscha began to work with lithography. A prolific printmaker, he went on to complete over three hundred prints using screenprint, etching and lithography.

Although Ruscha stayed faithful to traditional printmaking processes, he is known to have experimented with alternative materials. Rather than ink, Ruscha painted and printed using materials ranging from gunpowder, caviar, chewing tobacco, Pepto-Bismol, bourbon, chocolate, rose petals, castor oil and blood. Though the materials he used varied widely, Ruscha’s prints follow the bold and evocative visual style he used across all of his works.

His work has been featured in solo and group exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (2018), Broad Museum (2018), Secession, Vienna (2018), The National Gallery of Art (2018), British Museum (2017), The Getty Museum (2013), Kunstmuseum Basel (2013), de Young Museum (2016), National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (2005), Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2004–05), Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2004), Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (1990), Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (1988), San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (1983) and the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London (1976).

In 2009, Ed Ruscha: Fifty Years of Painting opened at the Hayward Gallery, London, and traveled to the Haus der Kunst, Munich, and Moderna Museet, Stockholm. In 2004, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, organized a major retrospective that subsequently traveled to the Museo nazionale delle arti del XXI Secolo, Rome (2004) and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh (2004–05). Ruscha represented the United States at the 2005 Venice Biennial.

Ruscha’s work is in numerous prominent museum collections, including the Art Institute of Chicago, IL; High Museum, Atlanta, GA; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; Israel Museum, Tel Aviv, IL; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, CA; Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY; Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, TX; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA; Museum of Modern Art, NY; Musée St. Pierre, Lyon, France; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; National Museum of American Art, Washington, D.C.; Museum Boymans van Beuningen, NL; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, FR; The Panza di Biumo Collection, Milan, IT; San Diego Museum of Arts, CA; Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, MN; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, CA; Stedelijk Museum, NL; Tate Gallery, London, UK; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN and the Whitney Museum of American Art, NY.
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