Art in Art: Mark Ruwedel on Ed Ruscha’s American West
Mark Ruwedel traverses the American and Canadian West, producing intimate, evocative black-and-white photographs of its scars: gashes, craters, and weathered structures evidencing its various (mis)uses in the name of art, war, or progress. In the vein of such 19th-century photographers as Carleton Watkins and Timothy O’Sullivan, Ruwedel’s work reads, in part, as a topographical survey of the Western territories, albeit tinged with a sense of loss rather than unbridled opportunism. In his “Westward the Course of Empire” series (1994-2007), he traces abandoned railway lines, which appear as meandering dirt trails or wooden trestles overrun by vegetation. In other series, focused on more recent interventions into this austerely beautiful and storied landscape, and with a nod to artists like Ed Ruscha, Ruwedel has photographed abandoned desert homes, bomb craters caused by military training, and vinyl records inexplicably strewn across the ground.
American, b. 1954, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania