Ed Ruscha Does L.A.

Ed Ruscha, c. 2005

In 1956, when he was eighteen, Ed Ruscha left his home in Oklahoma City and traveled to Los Angeles to study at the California Institute of the Arts. After graduating, he worked as a layout artist at an ad agency.

Ruscha has an extraordinary talent for casting ordinary objects and places in a new light and giving the viewer a new appreciation of their form.

Ed Ruscha
The Whisky a Go Go Club

In 1966, Ruscha mounted a motorized camera in the bed of a Datsun pickup truck and drove slowly up and down Sunset Boulevard, shooting thousands of frames in a single, continuous session. The truck moved slowly, so he put a sign on the back of the truck that read, “Please Pass.”

For over forty years, Ruscha photographed the Strip and other areas of L.A. The Getty Research Institute has launched an interactive website of Ruscha’s photos, taken between the mid-1960s and 2007.

Called 12 Sunsets, the site lets you choose a red pickup, blue Volkswagen bus or red Beetle and a year in which you can  travel along the Boulevard.

Though the Strip saw much social and artistic upheaval during the years he photographed it, Ruscha was more interested in the changing landscape design, the architecture and the signage that signaled social changes.

Ruscha worked with artist and master printmaker,  Richard Duardo, who was a driving force in the Chicano art community in Los Angeles. “It’s not artist-makes-print, but rather artist-and-printer-make-print.” Ruscha said.

After Duardo’s death in 2015, Ruscha designed Zoot Soot, available at VFA, in memory of Richard Duardo.

At 83, Ruscha still lives and works in Culver City, California.

Sir Michael Craig-Martin

Sir Michael Craig-Martin

In August of 2019, six steel sculptures by British artist Michael Craig-Martin were installed around Kinder Lake at Discover Green in Houston. It was the first exhibition of the Michael Craig-Martin’s sculptures to be seen in Texas, and only the second venue in the United States. Then came the pandemic and Craig-Martin has been sheltering in place in London, where he lives and works.

Craig-Martin, who was knighted in 2016, was born in Dublin, raised in the U.S., where he studied at the Yale School of Art and Architecture. In 1966 he moved to Britain, where he had his first solo exhibition in 1969. During the 1980s he was a tutor at Goldsmiths College, where he taught many of the emerging Young British Artists, including Damien Hirst. 

He was asked by BBC Arts to design a poster to honor the National Health Service (NHS) in Britain for its service during the pandemic. He created a poster of Gerbera Daisies, for adults and children to color in and display as a show of support for the work of NHS staff. The poster is available to download from the NHS website.

Usually Craig-Martin draws and sculpts everyday objects, but since the lockdown he’s been stuck at home and hasn’t been able to go to his studio. He’s been drawing objects from the supermarket. “Normally I’m strict about drawing mass-produced, fabricated objects, ordinary objects.” he said, “But over the past few weeks I’ve had a very good rush of work and I’ve been drawing nothing but fruit, flowers and vegetables. They are the only things I see. You can’t buy clothes, you can’t buy furniture, you can’t buy high tech. But I’m starting to see things I hadn’t noticed before. I’m struck that I’ve been able to produce dozens of drawings, where anybody could look at them and say, ‘that’s a strawberry, that’s fennel, that’s a carrot’.”

Please contact us if you would like more information about the works of Ed Ruscha and Sir Michael Craig-Mrtin available at VFA.

Sebastian Smee. Ed Ruscha’s stunning Sunset Strip art project lets you tour its full length, east to west — and back in time. The Washington Post. January 9, 2021.
Tobias Carroll. “12 Sunsets” Revisits Ed Ruscha’s Visual History of the Sunset Strip. Inside Hook. January 10, 2021.
Mark Rozzo. Ed Ruscha Still Has Plenty More to Say About America. Vanity Fair. May 30, 2018.
Pascale Hughes. Sir Michael Craig-Martin on creativity under coronavirus lockdown: ‘Art doesn’t have parameters’. iNews/Culture. May 1, 2020.