Ed Ruscha was born in a flyover state (Nebraska) at a time when cross-country travel was done in automobiles and the Southwest was not yet interconnected by superhighways. When he moved to LA, in 1956, he’d often drive the 1,000 miles between there and Oklahoma City in a 1950 Ford on the old Route 66. Along the way, he was mesmerized by the repetition of Standard Oil filling stations, so much so that they would become his Pop symbol of America, as Coca-Cola bottles did for Warhol. Burning Gas Station (1965–66) is one of my favorites from this series by Ruscha because it glorifies the homecoming of that journey and introduces many of the artist’s hallmarks, like the strong use of perspectival diagonals, expressed in the gas station’s canopy, and the flames that engulf it all. (Another of Ruscha’s iconic works, The Los Angeles County Museum on Fire, was created at the same time.) The definite touch of irony in a gas station in flames in the desert has always reminded me of Warhol’s Disaster paintings from the same period. Ruscha doubles down on calamity: the terror of a raging fire being fueled by a gas station. It’s deadpan humor with a dose of menace.
February 23, 2017
Here is Ed Ruscha’s Burning Gas Station (1965–66). Text by Larry Gagosian.
Ed Ruscha and Joanne Northrup
Ed Ruscha sat down with JoAnne Northrup of the Nevada Museum of Art to discuss the exhibition Unsettled, which the two co-curated.
Art and Food
Mary Ann Caws and Charles Stuckey discuss the presence of food and the dining table in the history of modern art.
Diana Widmaier Picasso, curator of the exhibition Desire, reflects on the history of eroticism in art.
Ed Ruscha: On the Highline
The High Line Art Program’s Cecilia Alemani discusses Ed Ruscha’s mural.
The story behind Chris Burden’s Buddha’s Fingers (2014–15) and its connection to all of his streetlamp installations. Text by Sydney Stutterheim.
Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Untitled (L.A. Painting) (1982) was a game changer. Text by Derek Blasberg.
Alexander Wolf guides us through a multilayered new painting by the celebrated artist.
The story behind the sculpture that Diana Widmaier Picasso highlighted in Picasso’s Picassos: A Selection from the Collection of Maya Ruiz-Picasso.