I want to be the Henry Ford of book making.
Gagosian is pleased to present an exhibition of Ed Ruscha’s legendary artist’s books together with books and works of art by more than a hundred contemporary artists that respond directly and diversely to Ruscha’s original project. Organized by Bob Monk, Ed Ruscha Books & Co. has been drawn from private collections, including Ruscha’s own. Most of the books are installed so that viewers can interact with them and browse their pages.
Inspired by the unassuming books that he found on street stalls during a trip to Europe, in 1962 Ruscha published his first artist’s book, Twentysix Gasoline Stations, under his own imprint, National Excelsior Press. A slim, cheaply produced volume, then priced at $3.50, Twentysix Gasoline Stations did exactly what its title suggests, reproducing twenty-six photographs of gasoline stations next to captions indicating their brand and location. All of the stations were on Route 66, the road mythologized by the eponymous TV series and in John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. Ruscha’s book traveled more or less west to east, from the first service station in Los Angeles, where he moved as a young man, back to Oklahoma City, where he grew up.
Initially, the book received a poor reception, rejected by the Library of Congress for its “unorthodox form and supposed lack of information.” However, during the ’60s it acquired cult status, and by the ’80s it was hailed as one of the first truly modern artist’s books. Ruscha followed up Twentysix Gasoline Stations (1962) with a succession of kindred publications, including Some Los Angeles Apartments (1965), Nine Swimming Pools and a Broken Glass (1968), and Real Estate Opportunities (1970), all of which combined the literalness of early California Ppop art with a deadpan photographic aesthetic informed by Minimalist sequence and seriality.
As the prolific and playful examples in the exhibition attest, Ruscha’s artist’s books have proved to be deeply influential, beginning with Bruce Nauman’s Burning Small Fires (1968), for which Nauman burned Ruscha’s Various Small Fires and Milk (1964) and photographed the process. More than forty years later, photographer Charles Johnstone relocated Ruscha’s Twentysix Gasoline Stations in Cuba, producing the portfolio Twentysix Havana Gasoline Stations (2008). The most recent homage is One Swimming Pool (2013) by Dutch artist Elisabeth Tonnard, who re-photographed one of the photographs from Ruscha’s Nine Swimming Pools and a Broken Glass (1968) and enlarged it to the size of a small swimming pool, consisting of 3,164 pages the same size as the pages in Ruscha’s original book. The pages of this “pool on a shelf” can be detached to create a life-size installation. Between these early and recent examples are a wealth of responses to Ruscha’s ideas by artists from all over the world, gathered here in this celebratory exhibition.
Featuring books and works by ABC Artists’ Books Cooperative, Noriko Ambe, Edgar Arceneaux, Eric Baskauskas, Luke Batten / Jonathan Sadler (New Catalogue), Erik Benjamins, Victoria Bianchetti, Doro Boehme, Jeff Brouws, Denise Scott Brown, Wendy Burton, Stephen Bush, Corinne Carlson, Dan Colen, Julie Cook, Jennifer Dalton, Bill Daniel, Claudia de la Torre, Joshua Deaner, Jen DeNike, Eric Doeringer, Stan Douglas, Harlan Erskine, Frank Eye, Kota Ezawa, Robbert Flick, Jan Freuchen, Jochen Friedrich, Thomas Galler, Anne-Valérie Gasc, Steve Giasson, Simon Goode, Oliver Griffin, Daniel S. Guy, Dejan Habicht, Marcella Hackbardt, Sebastian Hackenschmidt, Karen Henderson, Mishka Henner, Kai-Olaf Hesse, Taro Hirano, Marla Hlady, Dominik Hruza, Steven Izenour, Sveinn Fannar Jóhannsson, Taly and Russ Johnson, Charles Johnstone, Rinata Kajumova, Henning Kappenberg, Jean Keller, Shohachi Kimura, Julia Kjelgaard, Joachim Koester, Sowon Kwon, Tanja Lažetic, Gabriel Lester, Jonathan Lewis, Jochen Manz, Michael Maranda, Scott McCarney, Mark McEvoy, Jerry McMillan, Daniel Mellis, Martin Möll, Dan Monick, Jonathan Monk, Simon Morris, Audun Mortensen, Brian Murphy, Toby Mussman, Maurizio Nannucci, Bruce Nauman, John O’Brian, Stefan Oláh, Performance Re-Enactment Society, Michalis Pichler, Tadej Pogačar, Susan Porteous, James Prez, Clara Prioux, Robert Pufleb, Joseph Putrock, Jon Rafman, Achim Riechers, David John Russ, Mark Ruwedel, Tom Sachs, Joachim Schmid, Andreas Schmidt, Jean-Frédéric Schnyder, David Schoerner, David Schulz, Yann Sérandour, Travis Shaffer, Gordon Simpson, Paul Soulellis, Tom Sowden, Kim Stringfellow, Derek Stroup, Derek Sullivan, Yoshikazu Suzuki, Chris Svensson, Eric Tabuchi, Elisabeth Tonnard, John Tremblay, Marc Valesella, Wil Van Iersel, Louisa Van Leer, Robert Venturi, Reinhard Voigt, Alex Von Bergen, Emily Wasserman, John Waters, Henry Wessel, Keith Wilson, Charles Woodard, Theo Wujcik, Mark Wyse, and Hermann Zschiegner.
Ed Ruscha Books & Co. will coincide with the publication of MIT Press’s Various Small Books: Referencing Small Books by Ed Ruscha (2013), which documents ninety-one of the books inspired by Ruscha’s own, reproducing covers and sample layouts from each, along with a detailed description. Various Small Books… also includes selections from Ruscha’s books and an appendix listing most of the known Ruscha book tributes.
On March 6, Ed Ruscha will appear in conversation with Paul Holdengräber at the New York Public Library.
Jacoba Urist profiles the legendary collector.
The Art History of Presidential Campaign Posters
Against the backdrop of the 2020 US presidential election, historian Hal Wert takes us through the artistic and political evolution of American campaign posters, from their origin in 1844 to the present. In an interview with Quarterly editor Gillian Jakab, Wert highlights an array of landmark posters and the artists who made them.
“Things Fall Apart”: Ed Ruscha’s Swiped Words
Lisa Turvey examines the range of effects conveyed by the blurred phrases in recent drawings by the artist, detailing the ways these words in motion evoke the experience of the current moment.
Gwen Allen recounts her discovery of cutting-edge artists’ magazines from the 1960s and 1970s and explores the roots and implications of these singular publications.
Eilshemius and Me: An Interview with Ed Ruscha
Ed Ruscha tells Viet-Nu Nguyen and Leta Grzan how he first encountered Louis Michel Eilshemius’s paintings, which of the artist’s aesthetic innovations captured his imagination, and how his own work relates to and differs from that of this “Neglected Marvel.”
The River Café Cookbook
London’s River Café, a culinary mecca perched on a bend in the River Thames, celebrated its thirtieth anniversary in 2018. To celebrate this milestone and the publication of her cookbook River Café London, cofounder Ruth Rogers sat down with Derek Blasberg to discuss the famed restaurant’s allure.
September 16–22, 2020
At the start of his artistic career, Ed Ruscha called himself an “abstract artist . . . who deals with subject matter.” Abandoning academic connotations that came to be associated with Abstract Expressionism, he looked instead to tropes of advertising and brought words—as form, symbol, and material—to the forefront of painting. Working in diverse media with humor and wit, he oscillates between sign and substance, locating the sublime in landscapes both natural and artificial. Ruscha’s formal experimentations and clever use of the American vernacular have evolved in form and meaning as technology alters the essence of human communication.
Photo: Kate Simon
May 28–June 30, 2020
Gagosian is pleased to present recent paintings by Ed Ruscha online for galleryplatform.la. Fifty years ago, Ruscha purchased a set of vellum drum skins from a leather shop in Los Angeles. He has continued to collect these vintage objects, and since 2011 he has used them as canvases for the works on view in his solo exhibition Drum Skins at the Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas at Austin.
Installation view, Ed Ruscha: Drum Skins, Blanton Museum of Art, University of Texas at Austin, January 11–October 4, 2020. Artwork © Ed Ruscha