Ed Ruscha, A, B, C, 1985–87, acrylic on canvas, three parts, each: 66 1/4 × 137 1/4 inches (168.3 × 348.6 cm) © Ed Ruscha. Photo by Paul Ruscha
Ed Ruscha’s photography, drawing, painting, and artist books record the shifting emblems of American life in the last half century. His deadpan representations of Hollywood logos, stylized gas stations, and archetypal landscapes distil the imagery of popular culture into a language of cinematic and typographical codes that are as accessible as they are profound. Ruscha’s wry choice of words and phrases, which feature heavily in his work, draw upon the moments of incidental ambiguity implicit in the interplay between the linguistic signifier and the concept signified. Although his images are undeniably rooted in the vernacular of a closely observed American reality, his elegantly laconic art speaks to more complex and widespread issues regarding the appearance, feel, and function of the world and our tenuous and transient place within it.
Ed Ruscha was born in 1937 in Omaha, Nebraska. He graduated from the Chouinard Art Institute (now CalArts), Los Angeles, in 1960. Recent solo museum exhibitions include “Cotton Puffs, Q–Tips®, Smoke and Mirrors: The Drawings of Ed Ruscha,” Whitney Museum of American Art (2004, traveled to The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; and National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., through 2005); “Ed Ruscha,” MAXXI, Rome (2004); “Ed Ruscha: Photographer,” Jeu de Paume, Paris (2006, traveled to Kunsthaus Zürich; and Museum Ludwig, Cologne, through 2006); “Ed Ruscha: Fifty Years of Painting,” Hayward Gallery, London (2009, traveled to Haus der Kunst, Munich; and Moderna Museet, Stockholm, through 2010); “Ed Ruscha: Road Tested,” The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas (2011); “On the Road,” Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2011, traveled to Denver Art Museum, Colorado; and Museum of Contemporary Art, Miami, through 2012); “Reading Ed Ruscha,” Kunsthaus Bregenz, Austria (2012); “Artist Rooms on Tour: Ed Ruscha,” Tate Modern, London (2009, traveled to Inverness Museum and Art Gallery, United Kingdom; Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, United Kingdom; and The Hatton Gallery, Newcastle, United Kingdom, among other venues, through 2013); “Ed Ruscha: Standard,” Los Angeles County Museum of Art (2012, traveled to The Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, Massachusetts, through 2013); “Ed Ruscha–Los Angeles Apartments,” Kunstmuseum Basel, Switzerland (2013); “In Focus: Ed Ruscha,” The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles (2013); and “Ed Ruscha: Mixmaster,” Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli, Torino (2015–16). In 2012, Ruscha curated “The Ancients Stole All Our Great Ideas,” at Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien in Austria. Ruscha represented the United States in the 51st Biennale di Venezia in 2005, and was featured in the 2015 Biennale de Lyon's exhibition, “La Vie Moderne.”
The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco opened a major solo exhibition of Ed Ruscha at the de Young Museum, which is on view from July 16, 2016 to October 9, 2016. “Ed Ruscha and the Great American West,” features more than eighty works spanning the artist's career, exploring his attachments to the sights and scenes of the iconic landscape.
Ruscha currently lives and works in Los Angeles, California.