Ed Ruscha, ‘The 1990s’, 2000, Phillips

Property of an Important European Collector

Sheet: 58 x 73 cm (22 7/8 x 28 3/4 in.)

From the Catalogue:
"What I'm interested in is illustrating ideas."

  • Ed Ruscha

Ed Ruscha’s text-based works have revolutionised the relationship between the visual and the semiotic. Ruscha fully embraced the visual culture of Los Angeles, making him a leading figure in the early emergence of the West Coast scene. Inspired by the text based works of fellow artists Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg, Ruscha has pursued a lifelong artistic exploration into the formal elements of printed text and its fluid relationship to the visual image. The present lot, The 1990s, embodies Ruscha’s mature style and is a splendid and imposing composition that fully represents the artist’s determined mastery of colour and form. By culling words, images and phrases that have been imprinted in his memory and that are found in mass media (print culture, advertising billboards, etc.), his work often serves as a visual encyclopedia of American culture and its syntax and symbology.

This distinct genesis in print media heavily influenced Ruscha’s eventual aesthetic. In his pieces, words are given a physical voice, and their evocative potential fully realised in clashes between the banal and the majestic. Many of his paintings find a single word or phrase recontextualised in suggestive interplay with typeface and background. “I like the idea of a word becoming a picture, almost leaving its body, then coming back and becoming a word again.” (Ed Ruscha, quoted in a lecture at the Getty Centre in Los Angeles, July 17, 1988; quoted in Clive Phillpot and Siri Engberg, Ed Ruscha: Editions 1962 - 1999, Volume 2, Minneapolis, 1999, p. 14) As such, Ruscha has pioneered the notion of words as visual abstractions, inducing a physical reaction based on their chosen hue, typography or context.
Courtesy of Phillips

Signature: signed and dated 'Ed Ruscha 2000' lower right of margin

This work will be included in a forthcoming volume of Edward Ruscha: Catalogue Raisonné of the Works on Paper, edited by Lisa Turvey.

Gagosian Gallery, New York
Private Collection, London
Acquired from the above by the present owner

About Ed Ruscha

Despite being credited with a Pop sensibility, Ed Ruscha defies categorization with his diverse output of photographic books and tongue-in-cheek photo-collages, paintings, and drawings. Ruscha’s work is inspired by the ironies and idiosyncrasies of life in Los Angeles, which he often conveys by placing glib words and phrases from colloquial and consumerist usage atop photographic images or fields of color. Known for painting and drawing with unusual materials such as gunpowder, blood, and Pepto Bismol, Ruscha draws attention to the deterioration of language and the pervasive cliches in pop culture, illustrated by his iconic 1979 painting I Don’t Want No Retro Spective. “You see this badly done on purpose, but the badly-done-on-purpose thing was done so well that it just becomes, let’s say, profound,” he once said. Equally renowned were his photographic books, in which he transferred the deadpan Pop style into series of images of LA—apartments, palm trees, or Twentysix Gasoline Stations (1962), his most famous work.

American, b. 1937, Omaha, Nebraska, based in Los Angeles, California