Ed Ruscha: Artist Portrait

Ed Ruscha

Born 1937.
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Ed Ruscha Biography

Ed Ruscha’s oeuvre is incredibly diverse in its use of media, and includes painting, drawing, print, photography, and film, among other less categorical experiments such as artist’s books. The highly graphic, illustrational aesthetic, and often ironic language-based content of his work has become iconic of West Coast Pop art.

Born in Omaha, Nebraska, on December 16, 1937, and raised largely in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Ruscha relocated to Los Angeles, in 1956 to attend the Chouinard Art Institute (now Cal Arts). Although widely recognized as an American Pop artist, he contributed greatly to the development of Conceptual art, and precursors to his work can be traced to Abstract Expressionism, Dadaism, and Surrealism. The most iconic works by Ruscha are his paintings and works on paper that feature language, which employ calligraphic techniques and sardonic, even glib text. In many ways these text-based works act as a critique of pop culture, canon, and semantics itself. Their inspiration is drawn from more accessible sources than the high art of museums and other major institutions, such as comic strips, commercial advertising, and typography. In his well-known painting OOF, from 1962 (reworked in 1963 and in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York), Ruscha makes onomatopoeia the focus of the piece, rather than relegating it to the status of adornment for another image, like it is traditionally used in comic strips.

Ruscha’s stylistic technique of combining high and low media and inspiration, and his striking visual design aesthetic, have made his works incredibly popular, and numerous museums and collections worldwide have acquired his work, including the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Tate Modern, London; and the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam.

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Artist Image: Credit: Robert Landau / Alamy Stock Photo
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