Ed Ruscha: Extremes and In-Betweens

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4 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

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Ed Ruscha is so cool. His art is just so effortless, throwaway, simple and easy. Since the ’60s, he’s made a career out of painting words such as ‘oof’ and ‘honk’ on big canvases. He’s painted the same building over and over, in different variations. He paints the Hollywood sign. He paints sentences. His work seems so calm, collected, cold, deadpan and aloof. But that doesn’t mean it’s unapproachable, or lacks emotional strength.

He’s basically a painter of ideas, and the idea in this show of brand new work is easy: big canvases showing scenes from nature, superimposed with words going from big to little, both in terms of font size and meaning. It goes ‘ton, lb, oz’ over a mountain; ‘all, some, none’ over a rocky outcropping; ‘universe’ all the way down to ‘dust bunny’ via ‘top-left dresser drawer’ on an image of sand.

The simplicity is what makes it so great. He’s saying: ‘Right, I’m going to play with scale, here’s the idea, here’s the execution.’ Simple, simple, simple. Direct, immediate, obvious.

With so little, he does so much. You don’t just think about the idea of scale in his images, you think about how scale relates to you, the passing of time (‘years’ down to ‘seconds’), even your place in the universe (‘galaxy’ down to ‘dot’), all because of a couple of words on a canvas. It’s so cool. I want to be Ed Ruscha.

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