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Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

|
New York

Ed Ruscha
B.1937
SHE GETS ANGRY AT HIM

Provenance

Galerie Rolf Ricke, Cologne
Dr. Heinz Hunstein, Kassel, Germany
Christie's New York, November 4, 1987, Lot 257 
Alfred Ordover, New York
Anne Plumb Gallery, New York
James Corcoran Gallery, Santa Monica, and Ed Ruscha
Anthony d'Offay Gallery, London
Monika Sprüth Philomene Magers Galerie, Munich
Adam D. Sender, New York (acquired from the above in 2000)
Sotheby's New York, May 14, 2014, Lot 6 (consigned by the above)
Acquired from the above by Marc Jacobs

Exhibited

Cologne, Galerie Rolf Ricke, Ed Ruscha, January - March 1975 
New York, Robert Miller Gallery, Edward Ruscha Stains 1971 to 1975, May - June 1992, n.p., no. 23, illustrated in color
Munich, Monika Sprüth Philomene Magers Galerie, Ed Ruscha: Gunpowder and Stains, May - June 2000, pp. 56-57, illustrated in color

Literature

Sam Hunter, John Jacobus, and Daniel Wheeler, Modern Art, New York, 2000, p. 363, no. 681, illustrated
Robert Dean with Erin Wright, Edward Ruscha: Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings: Volume Two: 1971-1982, New York, 2005, pp. 164-165, no. P1974.15, illustrated in color

Catalogue Note

Cast across a rippling skin of moiré, undulating like fine wood grain, the seventeen yellow Futura letters of Ed Ruscha’s captivating She Gets Angry At Him soak into the finely woven skein of our collective visual memory with immediate intensity. Executed in 1974, the present work represents one of Ruscha’s earliest forays into incorporating multi-word phrases—a paradigm of the artist’s signature marriage of text and image to convey words as physical, optically stimulating pictorial objects. In its intriguing linguistic ambiguity, She Gets Angry At Him marks a critical period in the development of Ruscha's practice, embodying the transformative moment at which the artist began to shift away from his formerly monosyllabic vernacular toward a heightened conceptual complexity. Honing his autographic deadpan lyricism, the years 1973-1975 are considered the golden age for Ruscha’s most accomplished exploration of language and its visual resonance when manipulated, modified and expressed through pictorial means. Although the titular phrase suggests a dramatic, even cinematic narrative, the words resist any contextualization by the viewer, instead remaining insistently enigmatic. Sinking into the moiré support, the egg yolk medium allows the text to penetrate the ground beneath it and exist within its woven construction, rather than sitting atop the surface as oil or acrylic on canvas would. In emphasizing the physical weight of the letters’ shapes and color through painting them in a ready-made organic material familiar to our everyday world, Ruscha transports the enigmatic phrase out of language and purely into the visual realm.

Hovering over the nuanced ground of creamy moiré, the words She Gets Angry At Him are articulated in a hue several shades darker than that below; the similarities in tone and saturation between the two tones invite close inspection by the viewer, necessitating intimate interaction with a painting whose text persistently evades narrative or comprehension. While the neat typeface of Ruscha’s letters invokes uniformity, upon close inspection, the edges of each form reveal softness, inconsistencies, and their unique hand-painted nature. In its innovative medium of egg yolk upon moiré support She Gets Angry At Him advances ideas about the material volume of words earlier explored by Ruscha’s paintings of text rendered in trompe l’oeil fashion as if made of bubbles or viscous liquids; here, however, Ruscha brilliantly inverts this approach, using the once fluid medium to create the hard-edged typography instead of mimicking the runny substance in form. Ruscha similarly explored quotidian materials as medium in his 1969 book Stains, a boxed portfolio of seventy-five leaves of paper stained with various substances such as blackcurrant pie filling, axle grease, mustard, Vaseline and bleach, a work now in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Continuing his fascination with nontraditional media at the Venice Biennale in 1970, Ruscha covered the walls of the United States Pavilion in 360 sheets of paper silkscreened with chocolate, installed side by side in layered rows to resemble the shingles of a suburban roof. Initiated the following year, Ruscha’s Stain paintings of 1971-1977 mark the pinnacle of this creative inquiry: as in the present work, Ruscha creates these remarkable compositions by staining porous surfaces like canvas, moiré, rayon, and satin with such unconventional materials as chili sauce, salad dressing, eggwhite, cherry extract, tea and castor oil—substances eccentric in the context of painting, yet banal in their everyday use. When highlights from the series, including She Gets Angry At Him, were exhibited at the Robert Miller Gallery in 1992, Peter Schjeldahl characterized the Stain paintings’ indelible unification of image and ground as Ruscha’s sardonic remark on the “decadence of color-field [painting]” in the early 1970s, recalling the ink-stained translucency of Morris Louis and Helen Frankenthaler’s abstract surfaces. (Peter Schjeldahl in Exh. Cat., New York, Robert Miller Gallery, Edward Ruscha Stains 1971 to 1977, 1992, n.p.)

By rendering prose almost tangible, She Gets Angry At Him emphasizes the oft-ignored sensory dimension of language that has so enraptured Ruscha from the very beginning of his practice. The artist describes: “Words have temperatures to me. When they reach a certain point and become hot words, then they appeal to me … Sometimes I have a dream that if a word gets too hot and too appealing, it will boil apart, and I won’t be able to read or think of it. Usually I catch them before they get too hot.” (The artist quoted in Exh. Cat., London, Hayward Gallery (and travelling), Ed Ruscha Fifty Years of Painting, 2009, pp. 46-7) The transfixing seduction of She Gets Angry At Him is due not only to the narrative mystery of the phrase but also to the viewer’s imagining of how the dried yolk bonds with the moiré—the five simple words are viscerally charged for the viewer to hear, smell and taste. An enigmatic painting that possesses a resounding power, the present work poetically commands an exhilarating sensory response.

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

|
New York