Artist Rooms: Music from the Balconies – Ed Ruscha and Los Angeles
Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh
Until 29th April 2018
I have been researching the work of Ed Ruscha for this module, particularly in relation to using everyday materials as a substitute for more conventional artists’ materials. This exhibition in Edinburgh was a chance to consider some of the other themes that are significant within his work including artists’ books, trademarks, text and cinema.
I focused on a number of exhibits which I felt offered ideas which I could experiment with in some way including artists’ books and techniques used in the reworking of previous work.
Thirtyfour Parking Lots in Los Angeles, 1967 [External link – opens in new tab]
This was one of a series of ‘Bookworks’ or photobooks produced by Ruscha. The traditional idea of the ‘Livres d’artistes’ or artists’ books was of luxurious, limited editions that were objects of desire with a limited circulation. Ruscha subverted this idea by using a simple format which was cheaply produced and consisted of mundane photography of everyday objects. Ruscha found that the “…book had inexplicable thing I was looking for, and that was a kind of ‘Huh’. That’s all I’ve always worked around. All it is a device to disarm somebody with my particular message”.
Pool Series, 1968/1997 [External link – opens in new tab]
Photographs from the Pool Series were taken from his photobook Nine Swimming Pools and a Broken Glass from 1968. This was the first series which experimented with colour. Views of deserted swimming pools in LA. Again, Ruscha subverted the idea of the pools being associated with sun and glamour in the way they are in works by David Hockney. Pools were viewed from elevated positions, sometime side-on or cropped giving the impression that they being viewed from a security camera. The photos were taken with a lightweight portable camera adding to the ‘style-less’ approach which was a trait of 1960s Conceptual Art.
Greenblatt’s Deli (Sunset Strip Portfolio) 1976/1995 [External link – opens in new tab]
Ruscha returned to this in 1995 and altered the negatives using razor blades and sandpaper to signal passing of time. Lines also suggest the scratches found on old cinema films.
Honk, 1962 [External link – opens in new tab]
A significant theme of Ruscha’s work is the use of text, often single words or phrases drawn from popular culture and slang. This appropriation of everyday language linked to idea of using ‘found objects’ common in Pop Art at the time. In Honk, Ruscha conveys the sound of the car through visual means reminding me of Arthur Dove’s Foghorns from 1929 where Dove used shape and colour to convey the sound of the foghorns.
Notes for Studio Practice
There are number of ideas within the exhibition which I would like to explore further and experiment with:
- The concept of artists’ book or photobooks, particularly the idea of taking mundane subjects.
- Altering photographs, something done by Gerhard Richter using paint but here Ruscha aggressively alters the surface to suggest age and the passing of time.
- The idea of representing sound visually.
Dove, A. (1929) Foghorns [Painting] At: http://www.wikiart.org/en/arthur-dove/foghorns-1929 (Accessed on 12.09.17)
Ruscha, E. (1962) Honk [Painting] At: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/ruscha-honk-ar00184 (Accessed on 12.09.17)
Ruscha, E. (1967) Thirtyfour Parking Lots in Los Angeles [Artist’s Book] At: http://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/collection/works/430.2008.a-ii/ Accessed on 12.09.17)
Ruscha, E. (1968) Pool #6 [Photograph] At: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/ruscha-pool-6-al00279(Accessed on 12.09.17)
Ruscha, E. (1976) Greenblatt’s Deli (Sunset Strip Portfolio) [Photograph] At: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/ruscha-greenblatts-deli-sunset-strip-portfolio-al00286 (Accessed on 12.09.17)