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Edward Ruscha photographs of Sunset Boulevard and Hollywood Boulevard, 1965-2010

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Ruscha (Edward) Photographs

Biographical/Historical Note

The American artist Edward Joseph Ruscha IV was born in Omaha, Nebraska on December 16, 1937 to Edward Ruscha III, an insurance auditor, and his wife Dorothy Driscoll Ruscha. He was raised in Oklahoma City where he met his lifelong friends Mason Williams, Joe Goode, and Jerry McMillan. After graduation from high school he drove to California with Mason Williams to attend Chouinard Art Institute (now California Institute of the Arts). Robert Irwin and Emerson Woelffer were among the teachers who would have an especially strong influence on him.

Ruscha graduated from Chouinard in 1960 and in 1961 made his first trip to Europe, traveling with his mother and older sister Shelby by car for seven months. The numerous travel images he took with his Yashika camera that include storefronts, window displays, and billboards, as well as the perhaps more typical images of people they met on their journey, thematically and stylistically prefigure the photographs he was soon to take for his early artist's books such as Twentysix Gasoline Stations (1963) and Some Los Angeles Apartments (1965).

A visit to New York on his way back to California opened Ruscha's eyes to Pop Art, and the work he subsequently created was included in New Painting of Common Objects, the first exhibition of Pop Art, curated by Walter Hopps at the Pasadena Art Museum in 1962. The following year Hopps gave Ruscha his first solo show at Ferus Gallery. Informed by Pop Art and the distinctive billboard culture of Los Angeles, Ruscha went on to become a pivitol presence in the West Coast and Conceptual art scenes.

Although much of Ruscha's work is informed by or uses photography as its point of departure, he sees himself not as a photographer but as someone who uses the medium of photography as part of his larger artistic practice. His early photographic artist's books, many of which further distill the quotidian elements of the Los Angeles cityscape - parking lots, urban streets, and apartment buildings - into serial imagery, have fundamentally altered the genre of the artist's book through their use of photography and commercial production methods. Yet in a discussion of his artist's books with Silvia Wolf, Ruscha noted, "My use of the camera is still a tool to make a picture...At the time I was into making pictures that happened to be photographs, rather than making 'photographs' ("Nostalgia and New Editions; A Converstion with Ed Ruscha," in Ed Ruscha and Photography, 2004, p. 257).

Known for the drawings and paintings of words and phrases that he began making in the 1960s, as well as for his artist's books, Ruscha is one of the pre-eminent artists of his generation. He has exhibited widely in the United States and abroad. His first international exhibition was in Cologne at Galerie Rudolf Zwirner in 1968. A few years later he began showing at Leo Castelli Gallery in New York, and his first retrospective was held at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 1982. He is currently represented by Gagosian Gallery (Los Angeles and New York).

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