Ed Ruscha - Biography
Ed Ruscha is one of the most iconic American artists of the 20th century. His work in many mediums, from photography, drawing, and painting to artist books and film, records the changing symbols of American life, and the sustained overarching mythology of The West, which continues to call to us through all the shifting decades of our history. His views from the road, Hollywood logos, gas stations, and Western landscapes, though visually simple and instantly appealing, resonate with inscrutable layers of meaning. Ruscha’s art often combines text and image to raise compelling and evasive questions.
Ed Ruscha was born in Omaha, Nebraska in 1937. Upon graduation from high school he drove to California, and his impressions of the journey, and the strange new world he found when he arrived in Los Angeles would inform his art for years to come. He studied painting, photography, and graphic design at the Chouinard Art Institute (now CalArts). Although originally he wanted to be a commercial artist, he became interested in fine art, and particularly in the work of Marcel Duchamp and the Pop artists of the sixties like Andy Warhol. Ruscha became associated with the famed Ferus Gallery—alongside artists like Robert Irwin and Billy Al Bengston, and eventually he became as closely associated with the LA art scene as Jackson Pollack is with New York. He began his famous “word paintings,” in the 1960s, which more abstract and ambiguous as his career progressed. By the 1980s he’d invented his own font called Boy Scout Utility Modern.
Ruscha’s work has been featured in dozens of exhibitions around the world, including Ed Ruscha: 50 Years of Painting at London's Hayward Gallery (2009), Ed Ruscha: Made in Los Angeles at Madrid's Reina Sofia in 2002, a 2000 retrospective at the Hirschhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, a survey of his works-on-paper at the J. Paul Getty Museum in 1998, and a 1982 retrospective that traveled to the Whitney Museum. In 2005 he represented the United States at the 51st Venice Biennale, and in 2009 he received a National Arts Award. He has been an influence on a staggering array of artists, including Stephen Shore, Christopher Wool, and Anselm Kiefer.
He will have a show Ed Ruscha and the Great American West at the de Young Museum in San Francisco from July 16—October 9, 2016. For more information, visit deyoung.famsf.org