Occupation: Painter; Photographer; Filmmaker
Movement: Pop Art
Specialty: Modern Art
Education: Chouinard Art Institute, Los Angeles
Famous Artworks
“Smash,” 1963
“Strange Catch for a Freshwater Fish,” 1965
“Burning Gas Station,” 1965-66
“Desire,” 1969
“Honey… I Twisted Through More Damned Traffic To Get Here,” 1984
“Our Flag,” 1987
“Whiz Kids,” 1987
“Truth,” 1997
Ed Ruscha is an American painter, illustrator, photographer, and printmaker. Drawing upon the vernacular of Los Angeles and its landscape, he became one of the key figures of the Pop Art movement in the 1960s, producing a body of work that was immediately accessible but evaded conceptual simplicity.
Early Influences
Born into a family of Roman Catholics in December 1937, Edward Joseph Ruscha IV was the second child of an accountant for the Hartford Insurance Company; his mother was a housewife. He showed an early interest in drawing which, considering the era in which he was raised, directed itself towards cartooning — an activity that his mother encouraged and which endured into his adolescence.
Although he was born in Omaha, Nebraska, he spent most of his childhood and early teens in Oklahoma City. The family moved to Los Angeles in 1956, where Ruscha enrolled at the Chouinard Art Institute and spent the next four years under the tutelage of Emerson Woelffer and Robert Irwin, initially studying commercial design before shifting to fine arts. This change in focus was caused in part by his growing interest in the work of Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg and Marcel Duchamp, the illustrations of Alvin Lustig and, inevitably, the movies.
The Legend Emerges
Upon graduation, Ruscha was employed as a layout artist by the Carson-Roberts Advertising Agency in Los Angeles but continued laboring on his own work in his free time. The influence of Hollywood and its pervasive imagery is evident throughout his oeuvre — his first major large-scale canvas, “Large Trademark with Eight Spotlights,” debuted in 1961 and depicted the 20th Century Fox logo stripped to its barest structure upon a black monotone. Similarly, the Paramount Pictures emblem is echoed in the images in his “Mountain” series, and as recently as 1991, Ruscha simulated the effect of damaged celluloid on his painting “The End.”
In 1962, he participated in the now-famous “New Painting of Common Objects” show at the Pasadena Art Museum, curated by Walter Hopps. His work was displayed along with Andy Warhol, Jim Dine, Roy Lichtenstein, and Wayne Thiebaud, and the exhibition has historical significance as the first in Pop Art in America. A solo show at the Ferus Gallery in 1963 cemented his status as an artist of note, and his production during the 1960s was prolific. By the time “Every Building on the Sunset Strip” was published in 1966, Ruscha was well known for his printmaking and painting. The book, which was a collection of photographs capturing two miles of the eponymous avenue, was shot on a motorized camera — a technique he would reuse for his photographs of the Hollywood Boulevard in 1973.
Throughout the 1960s, Ruscha did other work to supplement his income. He worked for the magazine “Artforum” as a layout artist under the name Eddie Russia between 1965 and 1969, and occasionally served as a guest professor in printing and illustration at the University of California.
Appeal of the Dark
Ruscha remains one of the most active artists today, working within a variety of mediums, including film, fashion, and spoken word. He became famous for his images of Californian landscapes juxtaposed with tongue-in-cheek text, often using bizarre materials with which to execute his painting, such as blood, gunpowder, cherry pie, and tulips. His work often leans towards the absurd, and his penchant for challenging, dark comedy has made him an icon of 20th century art.
He lives and works in Culver City, California, with his wife Danna Knego, whom he married twice.
1937  -  Born in Nebraska
1941  -  Moves to Oklahoma City 
1956  -  Awarded first prize in a graphic design competition organized by the Chamber of Commerce; begins studying at the Chouinard Art Institute
1967  -  Receives the Arts Grant from the National Council of Arts 
1969  -  Begins teaching printmaking and drawing at the University of California
1971  -  Awarded the Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship
1995  -  Wins the Achievement in Visual Arts Award from the California Arts Council
2006  -  Elected to the Board of Trustees of the Museum of Contemporary Arts
2009  -  Receives the Artistic Excellence Award from Americans for the Arts 
Major Exhibitions
1980  -  Nigel Greenwood, London
1980  -  Leo Castelli Gallery, New York
1981  -  Arco Center for the Visual Art, Los Angeles
1982  -  San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
1982  -  Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
1982  -  Los Angeles County Museum of Art
1990  -  Galeria Trisorio, Naples
1990  -  Galeria Joan Prats, Barcelona
1996  -  Gallery Seomi, Seoul
1998  -  Anthony d’Offay Gallery, London
2000  -  John Berggruen Gallery, San Francisco
2007  -  Museum Ludwig, Cologne
2013  -  Kunstmuseum Basel
2014  -  Gagosian Gallery, Rome
2015  -  Gagosian Gallery, Paris
Museums / Collections
Art Institute of Chicago
Whitney Museum of American Art, Washington DC
Walker Art Center, Minneapolis
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington DC
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Tate Gallery, London
Los Angeles County of Art
San Diego Museum of Arts
Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Books / Publications
“Ed Ruscha: Photographer” by Margit Rowell 
“Ed Ruscha’s Los Angeles” by Alexandra Schwartz
“Ed Ruscha: 50 Years of Painting” by James Ellroy and Ralph Rugoff
“They Called Her Styrene Etc” by Ed Ruscha
“Ed Ruscha” by Richard D. Marshall 

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