Lot 2
  • 2

Ed Ruscha

120,000 - 180,000 GBP
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  • Ed Ruscha
  • Punk
  • signed E. Ruscha and dated 1966
  • pencil and graphite on paper
  • 22.8 by 17.8cm.
  • 9 1/2 by 7 1/2in.
  • Executed in 1966.


James Meeker and Peter Gill

Peter Gill, San Antonio

Janie Beggs Gallery, Beverly Hills

Tom O'Gara, Los Angeles

Acquired from the above by the present owner


Vero Beach, Florida, Gallery at Windsor, Ed Ruscha: The Drawn Word, 2003-04, illustrated in colour in the catalogue

New York, Edward Tyler Nahem Fine Art, Ed Ruscha: Selected Works, 2005, illustrated in colour p. 18


Ed Ruscha, They Called Her Styrene, Phaidon, London, 2000, illustrated in colour

Lisa Turvey, Edward Ruscha Catalogue Raisonné of the Works on Paper: Volume One: 1956-1976, Yale University Press, New Haven & London, 2014, no. D.1966.21, illustrated in colour p.172

Catalogue Note

Brash and defiant, the word Punk emerges like a beacon from a hazy mist in this sublime work by Ed Ruscha, father of West Coast Pop Art and the foremost contemporary artist of signs and symbols. Audacious and unapologetic, Punk is evocative of the changing commercial and social vernacular which began to increasingly permeate American society in the twentieth century.

By 1966 Ruscha had turned his back on the landscapes that had populated his early artistic output to focus almost exclusively on words. In this year he executed a small suite of twenty-five drawings inscribed in strong pencil script on softly modulated fields of graphite. Some words such as Cherish reinforced the intimate nature of the series, whilst others such as Heart Attack and Punk introduced a note of humour and incongruity.

Communication marks are a primary concern for Ruscha and he has explored them through numerous mediums and guises in his illustrious œuvre. With this series Ruscha began to investigate the aesthetics of generic words and phrases by creating fantastical trompe l’œil pictures that radically alter the traditional typeface and meaning of the depicted word. These early single word drawings are also a pure expression of Ruscha's concept that words can perform as an object, a title, an image and a plastic element all in one.

Although he is generally fascinated with the graphic appearance of written words rather than their implied meanings, it is tempting to read some autobiographical content into such an evocative word as Punk. As Lisa Turvey notes with the series to which Punk belongs: 'That these drawings feel personal is due not only to their small size, but also to their depiction of handwriting, that inimitable trace of a person, one through which he or she might be identified. They actualise a long-standing analogy in Western Art, articulated by Alberti, Leonardo, and Vasari, amongst others, between drawing and handwriting' (L. Turvey, ‘Whistling at the Symphony', in Edward Ruscha Catalogue Raisonné of the Works on Paper: Volume One: 1956-1976, New Haven & London, 2014, p. 22).