In 1956, at the age of 18, Ed Ruscha left his home in Oklahoma and drove a 1950 Ford sedan to Los Angeles, where he had been accepted to Chouinard Art Institute. His trip roughly followed the fabled Route 66 through the Southwest, which featured many of the sights that would provide him with artistic subjects for decades to come.
Currently on display at San Francisco’s de Young are over eighty works revealing the artist’s fascination with the evolving landscape and iconic character of the “American West” in symbolic, evocative, and ironic renditions. Key to several of his best-known paintings and prints, these include works depicting gasoline stations, others commenting on LA and the film industry, as well as those in which a word or phrase is the sole subject.
Independently of the exhibition but released coinciding with it, Los Angeles’ MOCA has commissioned a short-length documentary about Ruscha’s extraordinary body of work: Ed Ruscha: Buildings and Words.