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Edward Ruscha / Now Then at MoMA

Ed Ruscha. Standard Station, Ten-Cent Western Being Torn in Half. 1964. © Edward Ruscha. Photo © Evie Marie Bishop, courtesy of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth.

“I don’t have any Seine Rivers like Monet,” Ed Ruscha once said. “I’ve just got US 66 between Oklahoma and Los Angeles.” ED RUSCHA/NOW THEN features over 200 works—in mediums including painting, drawing, prints, photography, artist’s books, film, and installation—that make use of everything from gunpowder to chocolate. Exploring Ruscha’s landmark contributions to postwar American art as well as lesser-known aspects of his more than six-decade career, the exhibition will offer new perspectives on a body of work that has influenced generations of artists, architects, designers, and writers.

In 1956, Ruscha left his hometown of Oklahoma City and drove along interstate highway 66 to study commercial art in Los Angeles, where he drew inspiration from the city’s architecture, colloquial speech, and popular culture. Ruscha has recorded and transformed familiar subjects—whether roadside gasoline stations or the 20th Century Fox logo—often revisiting motifs, sites, or words years later.

The vernacular of Southern California and Los Angeles landscapes informs the themes and styles that are central to a large number of Ruscha’s paintings, drawings, and books, despite his denials of this in interviews. A book of continuous photos of a 2.5-mile section of the 24-mile boulevard, Every Building on the Sunset Strip (1966), is one example of this. In 1973, he used a motorized camera to take pictures of the whole stretch of Hollywood Boulevard, modeling it after Every Building on the Sunset Strip. [8] Also, paintings like Standard Station (1966), Large Trademark (1962), and Hollywood (1982) exemplify Ruscha’s kinship with the Southern California visual language. Two of these paintings, Standard and Large Trademark, were emulated out of car parts in 2008 by Brazilian photographer Vik Muniz as a commentary on Los Angeles and its car culture.

Tracing shifts in the artist’s means and methods over time, ED RUSCHA / NOW THEN underscores the continuous reinvention that has defined his work. The exhibition runs through January 14, 2024.

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