There are just two rooms housing a collection of paintings, drawings and photography by Ed Ruscha, but they encompass a 50 year career that is still in full flow.
ARTIST ROOMS: Music from the Balconies – Ed Ruscha and Los Angeles is the first exhibition of Ruscha’s work at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh.Gallery for more than a decade.
The display features various works which explore the iconic American artist’s deep engagement with West Coast American culture and landscape.
The exhibition takes its title from one of Ruscha’s key paintings, which he generously donated to the ARTIST ROOMS collection in 2009, and which is being shown in Scotland for the first time.
The ARTIST ROOMS collection of modern and contemporary art is jointly owned by the National Galleries of Scotland and Tate on behalf of the nation.
Works from the collection are shared with museums and galleries around the UK and have attracted more than 40 million visitors since the collection was established in 2008.
The ARTIST ROOMS collection of Ruscha’s art has increased substantially both in size and standing, and currently comprises some 120 works dating between 1962 and 2010.
Ruscha is one of the pre-eminent artists of his generation. For six decades, he has channelled his fascination with language and the act of communication into paintings, drawings, books, photography and printmaking.
In 1962, Ruscha’s work was shown alongside Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol in the iconic exhibition New Paintings of Common Objects at the Pasadena Art Museum, one of the first seminal displays of Pop Art.
However, while Ruscha’s work shares many of Pop Art’s motifs, his playful use of words, phrases
and typography have set him firmly apart from any movement.
ARTIST ROOMS: Music from the Balconies highlights the ways in which Ruscha has consistently drawn upon landscape and architecture, cinema, brands, automobile culture and language that refer and relate to Los Angeles and Hollywood.
It brings together a number of photographic series that record different aspects of the Los Angeles cityscape. Such works exemplify Ruscha’s approach to capturing the growing prosperity of post-war American society, and demonstrate his acute observation of the contrasts between the aspirations and realities of the American Dream.
Amongst the photographic series featured are Ruscha’s iconic Sunset Strip Portfolio (1976/1995).
To create these images, the artist used motorised cameras mounted on the back of a pick-up truck to capture famous locales on both sides of the road of the Sunset Strip, the mile and a half stretch on West Hollywood’s Sunset Boulevard.
His original images were presented in a book with a concertina format, seven and a half metres in length, showing dual continuous views of the buildings along the road. He revisited the photographs in 1995 to create a portfolio, scoring the surface of the negatives with razor blades and sandpaper to dramatic effect.
Alongside these photographic works, the display features several important paintings and drawings which demonstrate the way in which Hollywood’s much glamorised cinematic heritage has been appropriated as subject matter by the artist.
These include the large-scale painting, The Final End (1992), in which Ruscha pays homage to the end credits of Hollywood movies, and the iconic drawing, Trademark #5 (1962), being lent by Tate in London, which depicts the 20th Century Fox film studios logo.
The monumental painting, The Music from the Balconies (1984) is one of a significant body of paintings from the 1980s, in which Ruscha overlaid landscapes with text. In this case, the text is taken from J G Ballard’s 1975 novel High-Rise.
For many, Ruscha is one of the half dozen most important living painters, whose influence, first across the West Coast, and later across America, has had a profound impact on art in every country in which it has been shown.
His influence on photography and book-making are equally transformative. For many young artists his work over the last half-century has been both liberating and revelatory.
29 April 2017 – 29 April 2018
Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (Modern One)
75 Belford Road, Edinburgh, EH4 3DR