(United States of America 16 Dec 1937 – )
50.6 x 75.2 cm image / sheet; 54.8 x 79.4 x 4.6 cm frame
The buildings and shop-fronts of West Hollywood’s Sunset Strip have been faithfully documented by the American artist Edward Ruscha every two or three years since 1966. These images are the scratched and marked reworkings of images from his 1966 photo-book, ‘Every building on the Sunset Strip’. The book followed on the success of his earlier pioneering photo-books, ‘Twentysix gasoline stations’ 1963, ‘Various small fires’ 1964 and ‘Some Los Angeles apartments’ 1965. The photographic panorama of the Strip, which was itself published in strip form as an 8.2m long foldout, had a particular impact on the architect Robert Venturi. Venturi recreated a version of Ruscha’s work in his book, ‘Learning from Las Vegas’ 1972, which introduced a postmodern perspective by critically assessing consumer culture through the built environment of Las Vegas.
Born and raised in the mid-west, and trained at the Choinard Art Institute in Los Angeles, Ruscha has been an influential post-war artist of uniquely American sensibility. His work, which includes painting, prints and graphic works as well as photo-books, trades in the vernacular language of American popular culture. Signage, logos, trademarks – the bedrock of corporate branding – all feature in his works, as seen in the distinctive typeface emblazoned on Schwab’s drugstore. Ruscha has been aligned with pop art since he exhibited in the 1962 survey ‘New painting of common objects’ alongside pop exemplars Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein. However, his work eschews the parodic nature of pop in favour of a deadpan irony which is just as subversive and perhaps more enduring. Ruscha’s continued documentation of Sunset Strip suggest he is as interested in the passage of time as in the idiosyncrasies of the present. ‘Time’, he notes laconically, ‘as a property, seems to be important to me.’1
1. Engberg, S. 1999 'An interview with Ed Ruscha', 'Art on paper', vol 4, no 2 Nov- Dec, p 67
© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007
Bronwyn Clark-Coolee, Photography: Art Gallery of New South Wales Collection, 'Not 'simply' anything', pg.266-287, Sydney, 2007, 271-2, 281 (illus.).
Judy Annear, American beauty: from Muybridge to Goldin, Sydney, 2003. no catalogue numbers
Julianna Engberg, Downtown: Ruscha, Rooney, Arkley, 'Downtown: Ruscha, Rooney, Arkley', pg. 10-20, Bulleen, 1995, 10-20, 14 (illus.).
Gregory Burke and Hanna Scott (Editors), Drive: power>progress>desire, 'Everywhere and nowhere', pg.48-59, New Zealand, 2000, 50 (illus.), 54. no catalogue numbers
Drive: power>progress>desire, Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, New Zealand, 12 Feb 2000–30 Apr 2000
American Beauty: from Muybridge to Goldin, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 05 Jun 2003–27 Jul 2003