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ED RUSCHA | the Influential 'West Coast' Pop Artist
May 19th 2018
For more than fifty years, Ed Ruscha has been an influential figure in postwar American painting and one of contemporary art's most significant graphic artists. His oeuvre melds Pop art iconography with Conceptual art. His is a multi-faceted practice that spans drawing, painting, photography, film, printmaking, and publishing and Ruscha’s background as a graphic designer is evident in his attention to typography in his works.
by Carys Lake-edwards
NEWS FROM EYESTORM
Rather than simply painting a word, Ruscha considers the particular font that might add an elevated emotion to its meaning, much like the way a poet considers syntax. By painting a word as a visual, the artist is marking it as endorsed, exalting it as an object rather than a mere piece of informative text. Ruscha is perhaps best known for his word-paintings, which skew the meaning of each word through color, background, and typeface. Of his work the artist has remarked: “I like the idea of a word becoming a picture, almost leaving its body, then coming back and becoming a word again”.

Ruscha’s love of language, especially that of signs and billboards from highways and the inner city, can be seen in the common abbreviation and typographically stylised lettering of ‘BLVD.’, ‘AVE.’ and ‘ST.’ that are prevalent in his most important works. The viewer may not immediately recognise that this grid-like pattern of wording is a street map, were it not for the text, which in itself takes on the appearance of the gritty, flat, monochromatic routes of the city streets that it denotes. The words are indeed the only indication of a human element in Ruscha’s sparse cityscapes and so perfectly illustrate his innovative style, that of directness, clarity and economy of means.
ED RUSCHA
Street Meets Avenue, 2000

Edition of 100
76(w) x 56(h) cm
30.24(w) x 22.36(h) inches
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ED RUSCHA
Street Meets Avenue, 2000

Edition of 100
76(w) x 56(h) cm
30.24(w) x 22.36(h) inches
ENQUIRY
Art is about speaking to each other and by making an enquiry you can have direct conversation with us about artwork you find interesting.
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76(w) x 56(h) cm
30.24(w) x 22.36(h) inches
Lithograph on Rives BFK paper.

Edition of 100
Available from a private collection
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In the 1990s, Ruscha began a series of paintings developing on this theme, which showed simplified street locations of Los Angeles from an aerial perspective. Eyestorm collaborated with the artist at the end of this decade to release one such image, Street meets Avenue, which became a successful limited edition off 100 lithographic prints. In contrast with earlier landscape works by Ruscha which are colourful stereotypical rural scenes, Street meets Avenue appears anonymous, urban and abstract. For the painting that inspired this print, Ruscha used an airbrush tool and acrylic paint in order to achieve what art historian Richard D. Marshall has called ‘phantom avenues spray-painted on grounds of modulated greys and blacks’.

Constantly inventive, Ruscha continues to work to this day with intriguing combinations of picture and language in the editioned work that has become integral and essential to his art. Ruscha has been labeled by many, a ‘West Coast’ artist yet he is unique in that although Los Angeles is undeniably the source of inspiration for his art, yet the themes he addresses are far-reaching and universal. A growing interest in Ruscha’s work in recent years has led to major exhibitions that toured the United States, and a number of solo shows in Europe and one such show will be coming to the United Kingdom this summer as the artist brings his contribution to the 2005 Venice Biennale, to the National Gallery in in London.

Exploring the theme of 'progress, or the course of progress,' Ruscha’s solo exhibition will reference English-born American painter Thomas Cole’s famous painting cycle of 1833-36, The Course of Empire. Ruscha’s ‘Course of Empire’, and is open from June 11th through Oct 7th, 2018, at The National Gallery. With its focuses on the industrial buildings of Los Angeles - simple, utilitarian structures are presented with no pretention to beauty but strong reminiscent of economic might and global reach - it’s definitely not one to miss; quintessential Ruscha at his best.
 
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Through a systematic study of the physical world, Damien Hirst discovers what a measured input of colour combined with mathematical regularities and randomness look like. Prior to being awarded the Turner Prize in ‘95, Hirst briefly deviated from the perfected grids seen in the famous ‘Spot’ paintings and allowed colour to roam freely on the canvas; intervened only by the laws of physics and thus giving science a voice within the constraints of his purpose-built mechanical device. The result of the journey was dazzling portraits known as ‘Spin’s. Brought to life through layers of inks, Beautiful, Galactic, Exploding Screenprint marks the debut screenprint from the series.
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Jason Kedgley - Tetra
Damien Hirst - Painting-by-Numbers (Blue)
Jeff Koons - Hair
William Klein - Black Woman, Profile in Crowd (1955)
Henrik Simonsen - Pine
 

Tetra

Painting-by-Numbers (Blue)

Hair

Black Woman, Profile in Crowd (1955)

Pine

Available from a private collection
Available from a private collection
Recommended Reading
Persistently challenging modern-day perceptions of conventional beauty, Jenny Saville offers a new perspective to a story that throughout history was often told by men. The brush strokes may resemble Lucian Freud and the divine fleshy palette of Rubens, but ultimately, these are female portraits - powerful rather than beautiful - and painted by a woman. Early shows, ‘YBA III’ and ‘Sensation’ at the Royal Academy of Arts, placed Saville in the spot light, quickly associating her as one of the young British artists in the nineties; a starting point of a career now in its fourth decade which has reaped numerous achievements for the artist. The first lithographic edition, Separates, follows the characteristics of Saville’s works and palette, although distinctively different in medium and technique.
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Do you own a print by Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, Ed Ruscha or other artists? Get in touch via the form below and we may know someone who is interested in the artwork.
 
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