13
13
Ed Ruscha
BLUE SCREAM 
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Guaranteed Property. The seller of lots with this symbol has been guaranteed a minimum price from one auction or a series of auctions. If every lot in a catalogue is guaranteed, the Conditions of Sale will so state and this symbol will not be used for each lot.
700,0001,000,000
LOT SOLD. 1,568,750 GBP
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13
Ed Ruscha
BLUE SCREAM 
Estimate
Irrevocable Bids
Lots with this symbol indicate that a party has provided Sotheby’s with an irrevocable bid on the lot that will be executed during the sale at a value that ensures that the lot will sell. The irrevocable bidder, who may bid in excess of the irrevocable bid, will be compensated based on the final hammer price in the event he or she is not the successful bidder or may receive a fixed fee in the event he or she is the successful bidder. If the irrevocable bidder is the successful bidder, the fixed fee (if applicable) for providing the irrevocable bid may be netted against the irrevocable bidder’s obligation to pay the full purchase price for the lot and the purchase price reported for the lot shall be net of such fixed fee. If the irrevocable bid is not secured until after the printing of the auction catalogue, a pre-lot announcement will be made indicating that there is an irrevocable bid on the lot. If the irrevocable bidder is advising anyone with respect to the lot, Sotheby’s requires the irrevocable bidder to disclose his or her financial interest in the lot. If an agent is advising you or bidding on your behalf with respect to a lot identified as being subject to an irrevocable bid, you should request that the agent disclose whether or not he or she has a financial interest in the lot.
Double Dagger
Indicates that the lot is being sold whilst subject to Temporary Importation, and that VAT is due at the reduced rate
Guaranteed Property
Guaranteed Property. The seller of lots with this symbol has been guaranteed a minimum price from one auction or a series of auctions. If every lot in a catalogue is guaranteed, the Conditions of Sale will so state and this symbol will not be used for each lot.
700,0001,000,000
LOT SOLD. 1,568,750 GBP
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Actual Size: A Curated Evening Sale

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London

Ed Ruscha
B. 1937
BLUE SCREAM 
signed Edward Ruscha and dated 1964; signed EDWARD RUSCHA, titled BLUE SCREAM and dated 1964 on the backing board
tempera and pencil on paper 
image size: 26.1 by 24.6cm.; 10 1/4 by 9 5/8 in.
sheet size: 34.9 by 30.4cm.; 13 3/4 by 12in.
Painted in 1964.
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Provenance

Louise Katzman Kurabi, Seattle (a gift from the artist)

Sale: Christie’s, New York, 7th March 2012, lot 77

Purchased at the above sale by the present owner

Literature

Lisa Turvey, Edward Ruscha Catalogue Raisonné of the Works on Paper: Volume One: 1956-1976, New Haven & London, 2014, no. D.1964.09, illustrated in colour p. 139

Catalogue Note

Blue Scream is a vibrant gem-like example of Ed Ruscha’s celebrated series of text paintings. Coming from the earliest phase of his career, this work not only reveals the artist’s fascination with language and text, but also denotes his preoccupation with the tropes and aesthetic of American cinema. Blue Scream is one of four works that the artist created in 1964 using the ‘SCREAM’ motif punctuated by rakish lines of radiating width; another of these – Yellow Scream – is now held in the permanent collection of the Art Institute of Chicago. The present example also has significant provenance having resided for nearly thirty years in the collection of Louise Katzman Kurabi. Kurabi was a curator at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in the early 1980s and put together Ed Ruscha’s first ever retrospective in 1984; the grateful artist gave her this effervescent art work some months afterwards.

The bold graphics of this painting proclaim the often ignored sensory dimension of language that enraptures Ruscha. He uses words in his paintings as aesthetic forms as much as significant symbols and for mood as much as for meaning. In the artist’s own words: 'I love language. Words have temperatures to me' (quoted in Ed Ruscha: Fifty Years of Paintings (exhibition catalogue), Hayward Gallery, London, 2009, pp. 46-47). In this respect, he can be seen to presage such artists as Christopher Wool who relished the abstract qualities of typography in his similarly impactful letter paintings. However, Ruscha’s 1960s practice is better aligned with the Pop movement that was dominating the contemporaneous avant-garde discourse. He showed at the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles at the same time as Andy Warhol, his works are created with high-key super-saturated palettes that seem typically Pop, and in content they are filled with the vernacular of the American everyman. SCREAM sits perfectly alongside the other emphatic ejaculations and exhortations that Ruscha was deploying in his works of the early 1960s like HONK, BOSS, and JELLY. These words feel quotidian, accessible, and impactful; typical of an art movement that aimed to take art out of the realms of high-minded intellectualism and into the immediacy of the everyday.

Ed Ruscha is also a quintessentially Californian artist whose œuvre is suffused with the influence of American cinema. The artistic precedent of the silver screen informs so much of his best known work, from the brilliant sunset-like backdrops of some of his later text paintings, to the extraordinary panoramic angle that he used to depict the gas stations of the west coast in the early 1960s. In the present work, this influence is palpable. The manner in which Ruscha punctures the word with spotlight-like lines from the left hand side is entirely redolent of the way that the artist constructed the Twentieth Century Fox logo for his famous 1962 painting Large Trademark with Eight Spotlights. Even the word itself seems to carry the implication of cinema, for its assonance with ‘screen’, and for its implicit association with the horror genre that was booming in contemporaneous culture.

Blue Scream stands out among the critical paper works of the early 1960s that were fundamental contributions to the Pop Art movement and laid the foundation for the visual language that established Ruscha as one of the most influential artists of his generation. Executed with the incredible energy and graphic force that typify this electric œuvre, Blue Scream should be considered a distillation of the genius of Ruscha’s unique aesthetic idiom, melding his own creative vision with the aesthetics of the silver screen, to create a unique work of unbridled impact.

Actual Size: A Curated Evening Sale

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London