Biography of Ed Ruscha
No other artist has been quite as successful at documenting America’s urban environment in all its beautiful banality as Ed Ruscha. The artist is a luminary of the 20th century and a star of the Californian art scene with a huge international profile. Ed Ruscha’s ability to frame words, images, and landscapes in a deadpan context can be both funny and disquieting. The artist is also adept at using text in his paintings, employing the simple immediacy of language to its full effect.
Ed Ruscha is renowned for a collection of sixteen photographic books that he made in the 1960s and 70s. Depicting Hollywood logos and gas stations, these works distil popular culture into a cinematic language that is at once familiar and achingly profound. Throughout his career he has defied categorization, never explicitly termed a Conceptualist of Pop artist, despite the profound impact that both movements had on his work and the influence he made on subsequent Conceptual artists like Lawrence Weiner.
Born in 1937, Ed Ruscha drove from his home in Oklahoma to Los Angeles when he was 18 in the hope of studying at the California Institute of Arts. On his journey he encountered scenes, objects and texts that would come to inspire much of his work. He combines such settings with depictions of everyday life in Los Angeles, often decorating them with consumerist phrases. Editions and multiples have always been an important part of Ed Ruscha’s practice as he specializes in screenprints, lithography, etchings but also photography and film.
As well as representing the US at the 2005 Venice Biennale, Ed Ruscha has been the subject of numerous retrospectives. Ed Ruscha: Fifty Years of Painting opened at the Hayward Gallery, London in 2009 and then travelled to Haus der Kunst, Munich and the Moderna Museet, Stockholm. In 2016 an exhibition which focused on how the artist drew inspiration from the American West and Route 66 opened at the M. H. de Young Memorial Museum in San Francisco. Ed Ruscha’s immense collectability means that for years his work has been near the top of the auction record-breaking sales.