Ruscha’s an artist probably most heavily associated with the West Coast Pop Art movement, making paintings that made use of some techniques typical of this art form; mass production, imagery from pop culture, and ‘found’ words.
He’s also been categorised as a conceptual artist because of his use of language, series and repetition. But truth be told, his work isn’t easily nailed down, which is partly why I think this small two room exhibition is so interesting.
After moving to LA in the 50s, Ruscha’s work has been massively influenced by the city. Architecture, fonts, swimming pools, roads, cars, city layout, parking lots, and of course the film industry, have featured at some stage during his career.
Seeking inspiration from the uninspired
Some of his best work draws inspiration from the seemingly banal – for example the ‘Pool Series’ and ‘Parking Lot Series’. The former taking a look at a series of typical LA private swimming pools, recently vacated, but with no sign of life in the picture.
The series on parking lots looks at the variations and similarities of the American parking lot, with the various shapes sizes, arrangements and repeated patterns becoming almost hypnotic.
Other notable works in the exhibition include “Every Building on the Sunset Strip” – a photography booklet that documents each of the buildings on the Sunset Strip, in order, from 1966.
His photography work like this, and Sunset Strip Portfolio, are not only interesting as bodies of work, but also as a window into the history of a city, one that’s changed beyond recognition from the 60s.
The end of Hollywood’s golden age
His connection to the West Coast Pop Art movement becomes more obvious in the second room where large scale canvasses carrying words such as “DAILY PLANET”, “JET BABY” and of course “MUSIC FROM THE BALCONIES”, the piece from which the exhibition takes its name.
But it’s “THE END” which really caught my attention in this room.
The words are painted in a style reminiscent of an early Hollywood western end screen, while golden rushes have grown up around them. It’s thought that this represents Ruscha’s views on the passing of the golden age of Hollywood film-making.
Surely a statement never more relevant than under current circumstances.
Like what you see?
Check out the Ed Ruscha Artist Room at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (ONE) for free until April 29.