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Jess Johnson: Worlds Within Worlds Ocula Conversation Jess Johnson: Worlds Within Worlds

Geometric patterns, anthropomorphic characters, architectural spatial environments, and relics of the ancient world appear throughout Jess Johnson's artworks.Johnson's solo art-ventures began in drawing, but her long-term collaborative relationship with animator Simon Ward brings her drawings to life in videos and virtual reality. The animator has...

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Melati Suryodarmo: Performance Art as Trigger Ocula Conversation Melati Suryodarmo: Performance Art as Trigger

In 2012, Melati Suryodarmo opened Studio Plesungan in her native Surakarta, also known as Solo, the historic royal capital of the Mataram Empire of Java in Indonesia. Suryodarmo had returned to Indonesia from Germany, where she studied Butoh and choreography with Butoh dancer and choreographer Anzu Furukawa, time-based media with avantgarde...

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Lagos Biennial 2019: Stories from Africa’s most Populous City Ocula Report Lagos Biennial 2019: Stories from Africa’s most Populous City 15 Nov 2019 : Jareh Das for Ocula

Under the direction of Folakunle Oshun, the second edition of the Lagos Biennial (26 October–23 November 2019) includes works by over 40 Lagos-based and international artists, architects, and collectives. Curated by architect Tosin Oshinowo, curator and producer Oyindamola Fakeye, and assistant curator of photography at the Art Institute of...

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Hans Hartung and Art Informel: Exhibition Walkthrough Ocula Insight | Video
Sponsored Content | Mazzoleni Gallery
Hans Hartung and Art Informel: Exhibition Walkthrough 15 October 2019

Hans Hartung and Art Informel at Mazzoleni London (1 October 2019-18 January 2020) presents key works by the French-German painter while highlighting his connection with artists active in Paris during the 50s and 60s. In this video, writer and historian Alan Montgomery discusses Hartung's practice and its legacy.Born in Leipzig in 1904, Hans...

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Ed Ruscha

b. 1937, USA

Best known for his word paintings, since the 1950s Ed Ruscha has been examining the iconography of popular culture and emblems of Americana through drawings, paintings, prints, photographs, and artist's books often characterised by the use of bold typefaces and bright colours. Associated with Pop art due to his use of commercial techniques and subject matter, Ruscha is often compared to artists such as Andy Warhol and Robert Indiana, while the examination of the American ethos in his works has also been compared to the works of Jasper Johns, one of his earliest influences.

Ruscha was born in Omaha but raised in Oklahoma City. In 1956, he relocated to Los Angeles to attend the Chouinard Art Institute (now known as California Institute of the Arts) to study commercial art. While the ethos of Abstract Expressionism was dominant at the Institute, his early paintings depict household objects such as cigarettes (Cigarettes, 1956) and cans of Spam (Actual Size, 1962). While a student, the artist earned money by painting labels on signs by hand: early practice for the textual motifs he would come to be known for. His first word painting, E.Ruscha (1959), depicted the artist's name in roughly applied black and red oil paint. Subsequent text-based works from the era typically bore one word such as 'smash' or 'noise' on a monochromatic background, and were mostly freehand drawings covered with oil paint.

After graduating, Ruscha remained in California, a locale that would become a central influence on his art, seen in his use of bright, expressive colours and examinations of American consumerism. Such interests were compounded by the artist's working at California commercial ad agencies, as was his penchant for scale and design. In one of his most iconic pieces, the 1966 screenprint Standard Station, he depicted a Standard Oil gas station in flat, bright colours with a bold gradient background. The gas station is an important motif for the artist, symbolising a mundane but classically American landscape. This motif would inspire his book Twentysix Gasoline Stations in 1963, which comprises photographs of gas stations taken across the south-western United States and is considered one of the first modern artist's books.

In the latter half of the 1960s, Ruscha began work on his 'liquid word' series, which bore single words printed in trompe l'oeil lettering that mimicked the appearance of spilled fluid. For the backgrounds of these works, the artist often utilised the 'split fountain' technique, which entails combining two or more colours of ink before applying them to the paper, creating a smooth gradient effect. While visually evoking by-then clichéd, sunny imaginings of 20th-century California, this practice also spoke to the artist's background in advertising, as at the time the method was more commonly used in commercial art than fine art.

Humour and the absurd has long played an important role in Ruscha's artwork. A distinctly Surrealist influence can be seen in works from the 1960s, such as Angry Because it's Plaster, Not Milk (1965), which depicts an oversized bird next to a much smaller cup of plaster. Extending this playfulness into material form, in the late 1960s he began to incorporate non-traditional substances into his two-dimensional works. In the 1969 portfolio of prints Stains, the artist utilised egg yolk, beer, salad dressing, and his own blood to create the works on paper. Similarly, for the canvas Dance? (1973) he used coffee, egg white, chili sauce, cheese, and several other foodstuffs to write 'Dance?' on a white background. In the late 1960s, his accidental discovery of gunpowder's potential for artistic use resulted in a series of delicate trompe l'oeil drawings made by applying the dust with cotton balls and swabs.

By the mid-1970s, Ruscha began to incorporate entire phrases—such as ARTISTS WHO MAKE "PIECES" (1976) and HOLLYWOOD TANTRUM (1979)—in bold sans-serif white lettering onto colourful backgrounds. Font choice has always been important to his work; in the 1980s, the artist developed his own typeface, entitled Boy Scout Utility Modern and inspired by the letters of the Hollywood sign.

Today, Ruscha continues to examine the role of text in art, placing his signature font over photorealistic painted landscapes, as seen in works such as the large-scale acrylic painting Tulsa Slut (2016). In 2009, he published an artist's book version of Jack Kerouac's On the Road. He later mounted an exhibition at The Hammer Museum of works featuring his characteristic backgrounds of snow-capped mountains overlaid with key phrases from On the Road. In 2016, the de Young museum in San Francisco mounted a significant show of his works entitled Ed Ruscha and the Great American West. His artworks also appear in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art in New York, Tate in London, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Ruscha currently lives and works in Culver City, California.

Biography by Ocula | 2019
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Featured Artworks

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She didn't Have to do that by Ed Ruscha contemporary artwork
Ed RuschaShe didn't Have to do that, 1974 Blood on satin
91.4 x 101.6 cm
Sprüth Magers
The Letter N by Ed Ruscha contemporary artwork
Ed RuschaThe Letter N, 2005 Acrylic on paper
6 x 4 inches
Gagosian
Vacant Lots by Ed Ruscha contemporary artwork
Ed RuschaVacant Lots, 1970/2003 Suite of 4 silver gelatin prints
22 x 22 inches
Bruce Silverstein
Industrial Village by Ed Ruscha contemporary artwork
Ed RuschaIndustrial Village, 1982 Pastel on paper
96.5 x 127 cm
Gagosian
Gasoline Stations Portfolio by Ed Ruscha contemporary artwork
Ed RuschaGasoline Stations Portfolio, 1962 Suite of 10 gelatin silver prints
Bruce Silverstein
Cameo Cuts by Ed Ruscha contemporary artwork
Ed RuschaCameo Cuts, 1992 Set of six two color lithographs
30.5 x 30.5 cm
Krakow Witkin Gallery
“Baked Potato” by Ed Ruscha contemporary artwork
Ed Ruscha“Baked Potato”, 1962 Oil, ink, and collage on paper
12 x 11.5 inches
Almine Rech
Steak by Ed Ruscha contemporary artwork
Ed RuschaSteak, 1962 Oil and collage on paper
11 3/4 x 12 inches
Almine Rech

Recent Exhibitions

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Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, An Exhibition For Notre-Dame at Gagosian, Paris
Closed
11 June–27 July 2019 Group Exhibition An Exhibition For Notre-Dame Gagosian, Paris
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, The Sylvio Perlstein Collection A Luta Continua at Hauser & Wirth, Hong Kong
Closed
23 May–27 July 2019 Group Exhibition The Sylvio Perlstein Collection A Luta Continua Hauser & Wirth, Hong Kong
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, Robert Fraser’s Groovy Arts Club Band at Gazelli Art House, London
Closed
11 January–23 February 2019 Group Exhibition Robert Fraser’s Groovy Arts Club Band Gazelli Art House, London

Represented By

In Ocula Magazine

A Journey That Wasn’t at The Broad, Los Angeles Ocula Report A Journey That Wasn’t at The Broad, Los Angeles 29 Sep 2018 : Jareh Das for Ocula

A Journey That Wasn't showcases 55 artworks from the permanent collection of The Broad in Los Angeles, some of which are on view for the first time (30 June 2018–10 February 2019). Located in the museum's first-floor galleries and curated by Ed Schad and Sarah Loyer (both curators at The Broad), the show explores how artists have dealt with...

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Best institutional shows in Turin during Artissima Ocula Report Best institutional shows in Turin during Artissima 4 Nov 2015 : Rachael Vance for Ocula

Each November the art world casts its attention on Italy’s art centre of Turin for the annual Artissima art fair. However, its not only the fair that attracts the international art cognoscenti to the Piedmont capital. With a history steeped in the cultural avant-garde of the Arte Povera movement and with strong philanthropic arts circles,...

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In Related Press

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Art Collection Of Renowned Architect Fred Clarke, Featuring Thirty-Five Meticulous Ed Ruscha Works, Heads To Auction Related Press Art Collection Of Renowned Architect Fred Clarke, Featuring Thirty-Five Meticulous Ed Ruscha Works, Heads To Auction Forbes : 25 August 2019

Laura Weir Clarke and Fred Clarke moved from their native Texas to Los Angeles in the mid-1960s, intoxicated by West Coast culture and in search of fine art. They wandered the city, knocking on studio doors of artists they respected seeking insight into the creative process, befriending artists Chris Burden and Larry Bell, gallery owner Margo...

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Ed Ruscha Treasure Trove to be Auctioned by Christie's (Exclusive) Related Press Ed Ruscha Treasure Trove to be Auctioned by Christie's (Exclusive) Hollywood Reporter : 14 August 2019

L.A. master Ed Ruscha boasts Hollywood collectors including Leonardo DiCaprio, Owen Wilson and Jay-Z, but few can lay claim to as many of his works as architect Fred Clarke, partner of the late Cesar Pelli.

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Preview Art Basel 2019 Related Press Preview Art Basel 2019 ARTnews : 7 June 2019

Art Basel 2019 opens to the public on Thursday, June 13, with two preview days, on June 11 and 12. Some 290 galleries from 34 countries will show work at the Swiss fair, which runs through June 16.

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Ed Ruscha Still Has Plenty More to Say About America Related Press Ed Ruscha Still Has Plenty More to Say About America Vanity Fair : 30 May 2018

One afternoon last spring, I rode shotgun with the artist Ed Ruscha as he guided his silver-gray Tesla along the streets of Culver City, California, where he works out of a 9,000-square-foot former prop warehouse.The overcast sky was gauzy, like one of his gunpowder drawings from the 1960s. As a driver, Ruscha is calm, collected, and—it's...

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In Video & Audio

A Luta Continua. The Sylvio Perlstein Collection Related Video & Audio A Luta Continua. The Sylvio Perlstein Collection Hauser & Wirth : 8 May 2018

Unfolding across all three floors of Hauser & Wirth New York, 22nd Street, A Luta Continua is the first United States presentation of the Sylvio Perlstein Collection. Curated by David Rosenberg, the exhibition presents more than 360 works by some 250 artists. Among these are Josef Albers, Carl Andre, Diane Arbus, Hans Bellmer, André Breton,...

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Getting there: Ed Ruscha Related Video & Audio Getting there: Ed Ruscha Juxtapoz Magazine : 24 July 2016

First published on Nowness: Ed Ruscha took Matthew Donaldson on a Los Angeles ride through memory lane, from the artist’s Culver City studio—that started life as one of Howard Hughes’ aircraft parts factories—to Silverlake and around Echo Park where the filmmaker lived as a child. “Almost more than...

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Ed Ruscha and the Art of the Everyday Related Video & Audio Ed Ruscha and the Art of the Everyday Tate : 23 May 2013

Ed Ruscha is widely regarded as one of the world's most important artists with a career spanning six decades from the early 1960s until the present day. Through key works from the ARTIST ROOMS collection discover the art and ideas of this extraordinary artist.

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