Lot 113
  • 113

Ed Ruscha

200,000 - 300,000 USD
Log in to view results
bidding is closed


  • Ed Ruscha
  • Romeo
  • signed and dated 1981
  • pastel on paper
  • 23 by 29 in. 58.4 by 73.7 cm.


Galleria del Cavallino, Venice
Francoise Lambert, Paris
Richard and Lia Polsky, Santa Monica
James Corcoran Gallery, Los Angeles
Robert A. Rowan, Pasadena (acquired from the above in 1988)
Acquired from the above by the present owner


Venice, Galleria del Cavallino, Edward Ruscha, April - May 1983


This work is in very good condition overall. There is a slight undulation to the sheet, inherent to the artist's working method. Under very close inspection, a few horizontal graphite marks are visible along the bottom edge and there is a pinpoint nick to the sheet, all likely from the time of execution. The sheet is hinged verso to the mat intermittently along the top edge. Framed under Plexiglas.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

Sotheby’s is delighted to present four works on paper by Ed Ruscha dating from 1972-1982 from a distinguished West Coast Collection. All four works were acquired directly by the present owner from the noteworthy collection of Robert A. Rowan—the prominent California collector who was not only a founding trustee, President and driving force behind the Pasadena Art Museum, but also a founder of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Assembled together by this visionary West Coast collector, these four works on paper display a compelling cross-section of Ruscha’s mastery as a draftsman across a range of media over the course of his prodigious career. In her essay describing Rowan’s enduring contribution to the legacy and understanding of the art of Southern California in the second half of the 20th century, Katherine Bishop Crum noted Rowan’s unparalleled eye and passion for Ruscha: “Rowan bought a number of paintings over the years by Ruscha. Some have words, some do not. In a variety of ways, at various times, these [works] explore Ruscha’s fundamental observations about the interplay between sign and referent; between the experience before us and the memory we bring to it; and the way we translate this experience into symbols. Ruscha’s ‘subject’ is the observation of how symbols operate in memory, regardless of whether they are words or visual representations” (Katherine Bishop Crum, Exh. Cat., Oakland, Mills College Art Museum, The Rowan Collection: Passion and Patronage, Painting in Los Angeles and New York, 1999).

These works evidence a keen curatorial eye and daring intellect in their selection, while collectively showcasing the stunning wit, boundless experimentation and unrivaled artistic creativity of Ruscha—an artist who has come to define and transcend the American artistic canon for almost six-decades. This particular selection of works on paper is from a ten-year period integral to Ruscha’s stylistic development, with each work highlighting the artist’s unabashed creative fervor and innovative material experimentation. Margit Rowell commented on the consummate power of Ruscha’s drawings on the occasion of the Whitney Museum’s exhibition of the artist’s drawings in 2004, writing, “However, if the camera traditionally captures reality, it also distorts reality, even more so, one might suppose, when the camera is in the mind's eye...The result is a body of images that purport to document ‘the here and now,’ but which have been filtered through a lens that is neither objective nor real. Yes, Ruscha's eye is a camera, but it is like none other, which is why his drawings are unsettling and unique" (Margit Rowell, Cotton Puffs, Q-Tips, Smoke and Mirrors: The Drawings of Ed Ruscha, New York 2004, p. 25). Papers (1972), Corn Eyes (1977), Romeo (1981), and Motel Management School (1982), crafted during a decade of extreme productivity and creative ingenuity for the artist and superbly accomplished in pastel, gunpowder, and watercolor, demonstrate a lens that though ‘neither objective nor real’ are unmistakably the vision of the enigmatic Ed Ruscha. 

"If I'm influenced by the movies it's from way down underneath, not just on the surface. A lot of my paintings [and drawings] are anonymous backdrops for the drama of words...It's so simple and the backgrounds are of no particular character. They're just meant to support the drama." Ed Ruscha