56
56
Edward Ruscha
BRAVE MAN'S PORCH
Estimate
4,000,0006,000,000
LOT SOLD. 6,550,400 USD
JUMP TO LOT
56
Edward Ruscha
BRAVE MAN'S PORCH
Estimate
4,000,0006,000,000
LOT SOLD. 6,550,400 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

|
New York

Edward Ruscha
B.1937
BRAVE MAN'S PORCH
signed and dated 1996 on the reverse; signed, titled and dated 1996 on the stretcher 
acrylic on canvas
82 by 50 in. 208.3 by 127 cm.
Executed in 1996.
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Provenance

Anthony d'Offay Gallery, London
Acquired by the present owner from the above in 2001

Exhibited

New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, 1997 Biennial Exhibition, March - June 1997, p. 147, illustrated in color 

Literature

Kristine McKenna, "It Happens Every Two Years," Los Angeles Times, 1997, pp. 3, 78 
Parkett 55, Zurich, 1999, illustrated in color on the cover flap
Robert Dean and Lisa Turvey, eds., Edward Ruscha: Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings, Volume Five: 1993-1997, New York, 2012, pp. 260-261, no. P1996.12, illustrated in color

Catalogue Note

Theatrical in its scale and breathtaking in its expertly executed sfumato, Ed Ruscha’s Brave Man’s Porch reverberates with a dynamic energy utterly unique to the artist’s peerless style in which image, symbol and text coexist in sometimes tensile relationships. Throughout his singular career, Ruscha has explored semiotics and employed various artistic techniques to address how words and symbols carry meaning when juxtaposed with image. Brave Man’s Porch presents the silhouette of a portico, rendered in a rich black tone, against the backdrop of a vaporous light gray and blue sky. The hazy shade of dusky blue commingles with the edges of the black paint, creating a gauzy twilit aura, cinematic in its graininess. Onto this impalpable atmosphere, Ruscha has stenciled the words “Brave men run in my family” in crisp white paint, a stark contrast to the moodiness of the landscape. The size of the text diminishes towards the end of the sentence and bottom of the canvas, prompting the viewer to draw nearer in order to make out the last words. The immediacy and magnetic pull of these consistently conceptual semantic puzzles Ruscha attempts to elucidate are never static; rather, they bristle with tension, providing the viewer clues to achieve an overall understanding of the picture, while pulling away as the viewer is inescapably drawn in. The work's consummation of each of these hallmarks of Ruscha’s remarkable oeuvre mark it as a significant painting in the artist’s career, a distinguishment underscored by its exhibition in the internationally celebrated 1997 Whitney Biennial. Brave Man’s Porch also belongs to a limited grouping of “silhouette” paintings that first began to appear in the 1980s, in which Ruscha achieved this signature grisaille effect through the use of a spray gun. Commanding a strong presence in its magnanimous text but ethereal in its delicately applied paint, Brave Man’s Porch is an enigmatic and charged icon of Ruscha’s unparalleled oeuvre.

The present work derives its text from a scene from the 1948 movie The Paleface, in which Bob Hope’s character turns to Jane Russell’s during an attack and exclaims, “Brave men run in my family,” before promptly dashing away. Possessing a binary meaning, the phrase can signify two different and contradictory facts: that brave men appear in a family lineage or that brave men in a family literally run. The duality of this sentence would not have escaped Ruscha, who took a profound interest in semantics. Ruscha also illustrates this scene in other works, in which he runs Hope’s phrase over different images, each backdrop contributing to different interpretations of the text it supports. From the early onset of his career, Ruscha always exhibited a deep-seated fascination with film, so it is no surprise he chose here to appropriate a line from a movie. The artist has stated, “Like everyone else I’m a frustrated film director.” (Ed Ruscha quoted in Exh., Cat., Washington, D.C. (and travelling), Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Ed Ruscha, 2000, p. 171) Indeed, Ruscha’s tight focus on the top corner of the porch, yet displayed in such epic proportions, creates a sense of looming, as if the viewer were behind a camera quickly zooming in to this particular ridge of the porch, a motif Ruscha explored in four other paintings in 1996: Ionic, Doric, Porch and Palapa. Brave Man’s Porch is by far the largest and the only one of these five paintings that possesses the phrases and riddles that so amused the artist; it is also an enlarged nearly exact facsimile of Doric, executed in the same year. In all five of these paintings, however, we see Ruscha’s enchantment with cinema in the atmospheric manipulation of the paint. Brave Man’s Porch is undeniably the most dramatic of these five in its crepuscular palette and juxtaposition of stark text against a moody backdrop.

The seductive and theatrical nature of the painting is a product of Ruscha’s first road trip to California from Oklahoma on his way to art school. Together with Mason Williams, Ruscha flew across Route 66 toward Los Angeles where he became a commercial artist. Widescreen billboards of decontextualized words and a constant sequencing of images projected onto miles of the endless expanse of the mythic West personified a unique, contemporary cinematic experience, one that would later inform Brave Man’s Porch, not only in the words used on the canvas, but also in the granular treatment of paint. Brave Man’s Porch also illustrates Ruscha’s frustration with the “-isms” critics were constantly applying to artists. Jaded by the ‘artist as tortured genius’ ethos of the Abstract Expressionist, distrustful of Pop Art and uninspired by the commercial art he initially began in Los Angeles, Ruscha detached himself from these oppressive artistic traditions and instead developed a visual vocabulary all his own. He admired specific works or phases of various artists’ careers, including Marcel Duchamp, Jasper Johns and Roy Lichtenstein, yet never fully committed to their prescribed modes. Of his indeterminate style, Ruscha said, “I like the idea that an artist should never be questioned about what he does, because he actually deserves this right of artistic license...I’ve always felt like the number one rule is that there are no rules.” (Ibid, p. 154) Ruscha’s amusingly flippant sentiment is perfectly encapsulated in Brave Man’s Porch, a transcendental distillation of the his unmatched vernacular and unique artistic credo.

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

|
New York