Gagosian is pleased to present Ed Ruscha Books & Co., an exhibition of artists’ books by and after Ed Ruscha. The exhibition is organized by Gagosian director Bob Monk. The exhibition will be presented in conjunction with Ed Ruscha Prints and Photographs.
In the 1960s, Ruscha was credited with reinventing the artist’s book, producing and self-publishing a series of slim volumes of photography and text. By turning away from the craftsmanship and luxury status that typified the livre d’artiste in favor of the artistic idea or concept, expressed simply and in editions that were unsigned and inexpensively printed, Ruscha opened the genre to the possibilities of mass-production and distribution. Ed Ruscha Books & Co. presents Ruscha’s iconic books together with those of more than one hundred artists from all over the world—from Russia to Japan to the Netherlands—who have responded directly and diversely to his lead. Many books are installed so that viewers can browse their pages. After presentations in New York, Munich, and Paris (2013–15), the exhibition run concludes in Ruscha’s home city of Los Angeles.
Inspired by the unassuming books that he found in street stalls during a trip to Europe, Ruscha published his first artist’s book, Twentysix Gasoline Stations, in 1962 under his own imprint, National Excelsior Press. Priced at $3.50, it is exactly what its title suggests: twenty-six photographs of gas stations with captions indicating brand and location. Initially, the book was received with indifference, and it was even rejected by the Library of Congress for its “unorthodox form and supposed lack of information.” However, over time it acquired cult status, and by the 1980s it was hailed as one of the first truly modern artist’s books. Ruscha followed this up with a succession of similarly self-evident and deadpan photographic books chronicling aspects of Los Angeles or his round-trip drives between Los Angeles and Oklahoma, including Some Los Angeles Apartments (1965), Nine Swimming Pools and a Broken Glass (1968), and Real Estate Opportunities (1970). Their use of photography as a form of map-making or topographical study signals a conceptual, rather than documentary, thrust.
This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of one of Ruscha’s most iconic artist’s books, the 25-foot-long, accordion-folded Every Building on the Sunset Strip (1966). The past half century has seen the importance and meaning of this book expand and evolve, pulled into new light by changing historical contexts, yet always retaining an enigmatic influence over new generations of artists. Ruscha’s artist’s books have been deeply influential on his peers and followers—from Bruce Nauman’s Burning Small Fires (1968), in which Nauman burned a copy of Ruscha’s Various Small Fires and Milk (1964) and photographed the process, to Julie Cook’s Some Las Vegas Strip Clubs (2008), which turns the lights up on some nocturnal haunts.
In Rew-Shay Hood Project XIV (2008–11), the British artist Jonathan Monk airbrushed a car hood with the image of Rimmy Jim’s Chevron, Rimmy Jim’s, Arizona, borrowed from Twentysix Gasoline Stations, remaking the book-based photograph in an industrial form. For the first time, in this exhibition, nine works will be shown from Amy Park’s Ed Ruscha’s Every Building on the Sunset Strip, an ambitious series in which the entirety of Ruscha’s original artist’s book is enlarged and rendered delicately in watercolor, refining and refracting the images, fifty years after the fact—watercolor being the preferred medium to document building elevations and topography pre-photography. Mark McEvoy has created Utopian Slumps, a suite of seven prints that are “foxed” (distressed) covers of Ruscha’s books, the titles having been changed to plays on the originals—Some Los Angeles Apartments becomes Some Loser’s Apartment and Nine Swimming Pools is changed to Pissing in Pools. This irreverent homage carries over in John Waters’s 12 Assholes and a Dirty Foot and Louisa Van Leer’s Fifteen Pornography Companies. Theo Wujcik, meanwhile, has created etchings of lounging figures who have fallen asleep reading Ruscha’s books, and Dave Dyment made a painstakingly researched book called Every Building in the Sunset Strip, using Ruscha’s accordion format, which chronicles the history of every location photographed in Ruscha’s original. As this celebratory exhibition attests, the pace at which working artists continue to pay homage to Ruscha and the intimacy of the book and print medium as he defined it continue to grow. At play here is not just Ruscha’s long legacy, but also the continued impulse of young and contemporary artists to produce works that are tactile and immediate—in many cases handmade and unique books—in the face of the pervasive presence of mass-produced and distributed images. Ruscha’s magnetism intensifies as artists from different generations and cultural contexts discover his books, outspreading into related areas of artistic endeavor.
Featuring works by Amanny Ahmad, Noriko Ambe, Pascal Anders, Edgar Arceneaux, Eduardo Arias, Ben Barretto, Eric Baskauskas, Luke Batten, Doro Boehme, Jeff Brouws, Joanna Brown, Denise Scott Brown, Wendy Burton, Corrine Carlson, Dan Colen, Julie Cook, Kim Corbel, Jennifer Dalton, Claudia De La Torre, Sergio De La Torre, Jen DeNike, Eric Doeringer, Dave Dyment, Frank Eye, Kota Ezawa, Jan Freuchen, Thomas Galler, Anne-Valérie Gasc, Steve Giasson, Oliver Griffin, Daniels Guy, Dejan Habicht, Marcella Hackbardt, Sebastian Hackenschmidt, Karen Henderson, Mishka Henner, Trevor Hernandez, Kai-Olaf Hesse, Marla Hlady, Takashi Homma, Dominik Hruza, Steven Izenour, Sveinn Fannar Jóhannsson, Charles Johnstone, Gregory Eddi Jones, Rinata Kajumova, Henning Kappenburg, Shohachi Kimura, Sarah Kisner, Joachim Koester, David Kregenow, Hubert Krerschmer, Sowon Kwon, Tajha Lažetic, Gabriel Lester, Giulio Maffei, Jochen Manz, Michael Maranda, Catherine Martin, Matthieu Martin, Scott McCarney, Mark McEvoy, Jerry McMillan, Daniel Mellis, Martin Moll, Dan Monick, Jonathan Monk, Simon Morris, Maurizio Nannucci, Bruce Nauman, Philip Nolde, John O’Brian, Stefan Olah, Matthew Papa, Amy Park, Tadej Pogačar, Clara Prioux, Susan Proteous, Joseph Putrock, Hassan Rahim, Achim Riechers, Craig Ritchie, Mark Ruwedel, Tom Sachs, Jonathan Sadler, Zoë Sadokierski, David Schoerner, Joachim Schmid, Andreas Schmidt, Jean-Frédéric Schnyder, Yann Sérandour, Travis Shaffer, Izet Sheshivari, Chaddy Dean Smith, Eric Sole, Tom Sowden, Kim Stringfellow, Derek Sullivan, Yoshikazu Suzuki, Chris Svensson, Aggie Toppins, Marc Valesella, Louisa Van Leer, Robert Venturi, Frank Verdier, Reinhard Voigt, John Waters, Henry Wessel, M. Earl Williams, Keith Wilson, Theo Wujcik, and Hermann Zschiegner.
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