20th Century Art in 20 Unforgettable Works: Ed Ruscha’s ‘Securing the Last Letter (Boss)’


Emily Fisher Landau was, simply put, one of the greatest collectors and patrons of the twentieth century. Her legacy is set apart for her deep and longstanding involvement with leading institutions, in particular the Whitney Museum of American Art, as well as her profound engagement with the art and artists of her time and her unerring instinct as a collector at the highest level. Fisher Landau assembled one of the greatest collections of modern and contemporary art – over 100 works of which are coming to auction at Sotheby’s on 8–9 November.

Join us over the next 20 days leading up to the Emily Fisher Landau Evening Auction on 8 November as our specialists spotlight 20 key works from the Collection, celebrating their impact on twentieth-century art. Here, Brooke Lampley reflects on the significance of Ed Ruscha’s Securing the Last Letter (Boss) as part of our series The Emily Fisher Landau Collection: Twentieth Century Art in Twenty Unforgettable Works.

Emblazoned in glowing orange, the word ‘BOSS’ thunders from a contrasting expanse of midnight navy in Ed Ruscha’s Securing the Last Letter (Boss) from 1964. The booming clamor of the word here is interrupted only by the industrial C-clamp that squinches and compresses the final letter, warping the image with the full genius of the artist’s semiotic subversion. Merging Pop Art, Conceptualism and a distinct West Coast sensibility with an elemental graphic force, Ruscha’s Text paintings of the 1960s transformed ordinary language into arresting visual statements that launched the artist into the innovative forefront of American contemporary art.

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