American artist Edward (Ed) Ruscha bridges Pop Art, Abstraction,Realism,Minimalism,and Conceptual Art.
His art reflects a way of seeing the world through street life, the mass media, and film. In 1956 he moved to Los Angeles, and the West Coast landscape has been the subject of much of his work since that time.After starting out as a graphic designer for an advertising agency, in 1961 he decided to devote himself to making art, and his early works show an interest in typography and the common object. His paintings as a whole are inspired by icons of popular culture, and his canvases resemble billboards, with brand names painted across them.
Ruscha has a strong interest in printmaking, photography,and bookmaking, along with graphic design. Producing multiples has been a way for the artist to democratically disseminate his imagery. In the 1960s he began to make books of photographs documenting Los Angeles life, including apartment buildings, gasoline stations, and swimming pools. The book Thirty-Four Parking Lots in Los Angeles,1967,was followed in 1999 by an edition of thirty gelatin-silver prints, Parking Lots,1967 –99.To produce this edition, Ruscha returned to his original negatives from the 1967 book. The parking lots are seen from above, as in aerial photography, making them look flat. The white diagonal lines delineating parking spaces become abstract pictorial compositions, reminiscent of many of Ruscha ’s early paintings. The parking lots float in a timeless space, suggesting the paradox of a sprawling urban life with no people, cars, or drivers in it. The images describe a lonely, metaphysical urban landscape, with no one in it .Similarly unexpressive is the straightforward way the artist indicates the parking lots by street address only: the parking lot becomes both sign and location.In contrast with this anonymous atmosphere, cracks in the asphalt, oil stains, and smudges —pointing to the artist ’s fascination with spilled liquids, present in many of his works —emerge as traces of an absent population. This contrast is similar to the one between bold letterform and atmospheric backgrounds that constitute Ruscha ’s signature style in his paintings.
These works continue the American tradition of portraying the everyday landscape, depicted as a barrage of anonymous architecture and signage. While some of the images of parking lots were photographed by the artist, others were found images, reiterating Ruscha ’s Pop Art approach of deflating the modernist notion of authorship, and his disinterest in the tradition of classical photography, which stresses hand-crafted prints.