Gagosian Gallery Rome is pleased to announce an exhibition of new paintings by Ed Ruscha from November 20, 2014 to January 17, 2015
In 2005, Ruscha represented the U.S. at the Biennale di Venezia with Course of Empire, a project inspired by five paintings by Thomas Cole which depicted the same landscape over time as it transforms from a pristine natural state into developed terrain, and, finally, barren desolation. In the elegiac Psycho Spaghetti Westerns of 2011, he continued this train of thought, zooming in on the effects of time on the contemporary American landscape in a manner both empirical and metaphorically charged. He described these finely nuanced exercises in perception and memory as “waste and retrieval.”
In these wide horizontal paintings, landscape became a mental construct of abutting abstract surfaces—one a sfumato backdrop, the other a representational ground (grass, scrub, rock). This structure—a strong diagonal cutting the picture plane and dividing background from foreground—is a pictorial device that Ruscha has often used, dating back as far as the Standard Station paintings of the 1960s. In the Psycho Spaghetti Westerns it provided a near-neutral picture plane for meticulously rendered nature mortes of incidental roadside trash—“gators” (tire shreds), beer cans, construction materials, packaging, and discarded bedding. In keeping with the historical painting genre, they provide reflection on time passing.
In his most recent paintings, Ruscha continues to meditate on the melancholy of Psycho Spaghetti Westerns in complex pictures that conflate his signature elements with the visual devices, perspectival techniques, and refined atmospheres of Old Master paintings to depict the romantic road trip of youth reduced to roadside dystopia. In Gators, meticulously rendered life-size images of tire blow-outs float like botanical specimens against a blank white background; in the delicately shaded crimson-to-white field of Hydraulic Muscles, Pneumatic Smiles, similar fragments hover behind that vertically set phrase, deftly conjoining machine and man. In Bliss Bucket, a painting that owes as much to Surrealist precedent as to reality, a shabby mattress with rumpled bedding—perhaps a makeshift refuge—lies enigmatically beneath a giant musical bar with treble clef, cunningly foreshortened to add depth and perspective to the picture plane.
Ruscha’s deadpan representations of archetypal signs and symbols distill the imagery of popular culture into cinematic and typographical codes that are as accessible as they are profound. His wry and sometimes obtuse choice of words draws upon the moments of incidental ambiguity implicit in the interplay between language and image. Although his inspirations are undeniably rooted in his close observation of American
vernacular, his elegantly laconic paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, and artists’ books speak to more complex and widespread issues regarding the appearance, feel, and function of the world and our tenuous and transient place within it.
From 20 November 2014 to 17 January 2015
Via Francesco Crispi 16
Tue–Sat: 10:30am–7:00pm and by appointment