Regarded as the quintessential Los Angeles artist, Ed Ruscha’s painting, photography, drawing, and printmaking captures the emblems, signs, imagery and urban landscape of contemporary American life. Using often wry, ironic words and phrases, his work is often linked to the Pop art of Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, as well as the conceptual, language-based art of Joseph Kosuth and Lawrence Weiner, yet the deadpan humor and Los Angeles imagery set him apart from these contemporaries, lending to his work a character that is wholly unique.
Ruscha was born in 1937 in Omaha, Nebraska. After graduating from the Chouinard Art Institute (now CalArts), Los Angeles, in 1960, he started to work as a layout artist for an advertising agency in the same city. Rejecting the dominant trend for the gestural, painterly and subjective Abstract Expressionism, he quickly began to forge his own style, choosing banal, commonplace words such as ‘Oof,’ ‘Boss,’ and ‘Smash,’ and depicting them using stylish, depersonalized type. In 1963, he showed these word paintings, along with the now famous gas station images, at his first one-man show at the Ferus Gallery, Los Angeles.
Throughout his career, Ruscha’s work continues to be influenced by the iconography of Los Angeles and the West Coast, taking as his subjects the Hollywood film industry, the Californian landscape, commercial advertising, and consumer culture.
Ruscha’s work has been the subject of numerous exhibitions held at museums, including the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; MAXXI, Rome; Museum Ludwig, Cologne; Tate Modern, London, and the Kunstmuseum Basel, Switzerland. He represented the United States in the 51st Venice Biennale in 2005, and his work is held in public collections across the globe.
Ed Ruscha currently lives and works in Los Angeles, California.