Spelled out in a flowing ribbon, Ed Ruscha’s 1976 pastel Honey
functions both as a testament to the power of the artist’s draftsmanship, as well as a monument to his inimitable conceptual vision. Projecting out from the background, Honey
is sweet without being saccharine, gliding across an expansive field of color. The pastel background transitions in a gradient from a dusky green to a soft peach, emulating the sunset as it reflects on the clouds. This airy sense is magnified by the undulating letters in the center of the work, rendered to emulate a trailing advertisement behind an airplane. Part of a larger body of work where words are drawn in this style, pastels like Honey
“reinforce the three-dimensionality of the words, which are seen in perspective and from a skewed angle, hovering in space like lost objects that have been released from the printed page and now inhabit their own realm” (Richard D. Marshall, Ed Ruscha
, New York 2003, pp. 161-162).
Though Ruscha had recently begun making artworks using multiple words instead of one, Honey constitutes a novel development for the artist in the combination of elements from his earlier trompe l’oeil drawings featuring single words, with his pastels of household objects like books, ball bearings and food. Honey conjures numerous associations: a love note; a conversation half overheard; the taste of something sweet. Ruscha employs these associations, joining them with sophisticated stylistic choices to distill them into a single word.