At 78 years old, Ed Ruscha has perfected his artistic skills to the extent that he can express the noises of everyday life on a canvas. When he began his art in 1961, no one would have thought that the works that had words written over them would translate into such epic levels of fame. You too have probably come across his works and never stopped for a moment to think about the creativity that goes into making them. Some of these word paintings have published in not one, not two or three volumes but a record 20 and counting.
How Ed Ruscha started out
His journey into this little-known art space began in 1964 when Ed Ruscha started experimenting with words and phrases that were often satirical but perfectly depicted life as it was in LA. Does that mean he never used photoshop? Actually, he probably never knew there would be such a thing in future to compete with what he had invested time and creativity into. Like many artists, it was crucial for Ed Ruscha to experiment with various materials before he found one that matched the message he was trying to convey. From vinyl, gunpowder, fruit juices, blood, grass stains, and even raw eggs, he took the time to analyze the effect that each material not only had on the eyes but on the message. Through a combination of context and creativity, Ruscha was able to develop new materials that could only be found in his works.
Starting to focus on single words
By 1962, just a year after he had discovered his passion for words and found a way to turn that into artworks, Ed Ruscha began using single words. Annie (1962) for instance, was an art piece that incorporates five colors. The artist uses texture on the two vast color blocks to portray depth and structure. The art piece, in general, is soothing and more so because the letters of the main word seem to be floating.
Ed Ruscha – Annie, 1962, oil and pencil on canvas, 181.6 × 170.2 cm
Ed Ruscha Interview: Words Have No Size
Like many other artists that had gone before him, Ruscha’s training was basically aimed at making money. By delving into an arena where he was the most outstanding player, he managed to compound his unique style by paying attention to his surroundings. When asked about where he got his inspiration from, Ruscha opens up about his love for the spoken word and new uncommon words hidden in the dictionary.
Ed Ruscha – Rodeo, 1969, color lithograph, 17 x 24 inches
Ed Ruscha – Adios, 1969, color lithograph, 9.25 x 22 inches
Ed Ruscha – OOO, 1970, two-color lithograph, 51.1 x 70.5 cm
Ed Ruscha – Production, 1972, oil on canvas, 50.8 x 61 cm, 20 x 24 in.
Ed Ruscha – There’s No Job Too Small, 1975, Lithograph on Paper, 30 x 22 in
Ed Ruscha – MAD SCIENTIST, 1975, Pastel and graphite on paper, 57,8 x 72,4 cm
Ed Ruscha – ARTISTS WHO MAKE “PIECES”, 1976, Pastel on paper, 57,8 x 72,6 cm
Ed Ruscha – PRETTY EYES, ELECTRIC BILLS, 1976, Pastel and graphite on paper, 57,4 x 72,1 cm
Ed Ruscha – The Absolute End, 1982, Dry pigment on paper, 23 x 29 inches
Ed Ruscha – A Particular Kind of Heaven, 1983, oil on canvas, 90 x 136.5 in
Ed Ruscha – The End, 1991, lithograph, 26.1875 x 36.8125 in
Ed Ruscha – Porch Crop, 2001, acrylic on canvas, 162.6 x 182.9 cm, 64 x 72 in.
Ed Ruscha – Sex at Noon Taxes, 2002, acrylic on canvas, 162.6 x 193 cm, 64 x 76 in.
Ed Ruscha – Daily Planet, 2003, Acrylic paint on canvas, 152,9 x 152,9 cm
Ed Ruscha – Pay Nothing Until April, 2003, acrylic on canvas, 152,7 x 152,5 cm
Ed Ruscha – Bliss Bucket, 2010, Lithograph in colors, on wove paper, 61 x 61 cm
Ed Ruscha – GOODS AND SERVICES, 2012-2014, acrylic on canvas, 66 x 122 cm.
Ed Ruscha – God Knows Where, 2014. Acrylic on canvas, 121.9 x 121.9 cm, 48 x 48 in
Ed Ruscha – Busted Glass, 2014, dry pigment and acrylic on paper, 15 x 22.375 inches
Ed Ruscha – Fifty Years Of Painting exhibition, installation view, Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden
Photo: Åsa Lundén/modernamuseet.se
Ed Ruscha – installation view of Great American West exhibition, de Young Museum, San Francisco, 2016
Photo: Liz Hafalia, The Chronicle/sfgate.com
All images Ed Ruscha/edruscha.com unless otherwise noted.