Ed Ruscha

Ed Ruscha

Ed Ruscha

Edward Ruscha was born in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1937, and grew up in Oklahoma City. In 1956, upon graduating from high school, he moved to Los Angeles with the goal of becoming a commercial artist and enrolled at the Chouinard Art Institute – now the California Institute of the Arts – studying there until 1960. Ruscha made L.A. his home, and he continues to live and maintain a studio there. 

Los Angeles proved to be a bevy of source material for a young artist interested in graphic design, advertising, and developing new styles, and Ruscha’s work transcends any particular artistic movement’s boundaries, taking up residence somewhere between pop art, conceptual art, and design. Through humor, irony, and a straightforward style with a bold color palette and stenciled letters and words, his work comments on ideas of commercialism, consumerism, and romanticism. Single words, short phrases, and familiar objects, landscapes, and scenes are presented in a graphically simple format, which encourages attention and even confrontation from viewers. Ruscha also did not rely only on traditional materials for the creation of his artworks; instead, he used such experimental and nontraditional materials as gunpowder, juices from produce, blood, and grass, as sources for pigments. His artistic practice has grown to include painting, drawing, photography, printmaking, graphic arts, artist bookmaking, and holography.

In art school, finding inspiration from his discovery of an earlier generation of artists’ use of readymade objects, Ruscha became interested in using text within his artwork. He made his first word painting in 1959, which displayed his name, “E. Ruscha” in a spatially asymmetrical manner. A few years later, he created OOF, a well-known yellow and blue painting of the titular word, “oof”, done in 1962-1963. Also in 1963, one of the artist’s early book projects, entitled Twentysix Gasoline Stations, presents viewers with simple, black and white photographs of different gas stations along the route between L.A. and Oklahoma City. The photographs are captioned with the names of the gas stations and their locations. This artist book was the first that Ruscha published, which he followed with other well-known books, such as Every Building on the Sunset Strip, which similarly presents, in a black and white format, a photograph of every building on the Sunset Strip of Los Angeles. The photographs are presented in a 25-foot long accordion-style artist book, and this work became one of the most well-known by Ruscha. He made a total of 16 artist books in the 1960s and 1970s, and has continuously incorporated books in many manners, into his work ever since. 

In addition to debuting his artist books, 1963 was also the year that Ruscha had one of his first important solo exhibitions, which took place at the Ferus Gallery in L.A. The Ferus Gallery was a contemporary art gallery that was open from 1958 until 1966, and featured many L.A.-based artists such as Ruscha, Edward Kienholz (who had been one of the gallery’s founders), Ken Price, Ed Moses, Billy Al Bengston, Larry Bell, and Craig Kauffman, among others. Other major solo exhibitions included shows at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, in 1976; San Francisco


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Selected Exhibitions


  • Ed Ruscah: Paintings. Gagosian, 541 24th Street, New York, NY. Ed Ruscha: Drum Skins. Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, TX.


  • Ed Ruscha: Eilshemius & Me. Gagosian, Davies Street, London, England.


  • Ed Ruscha: Ace Radio Honk Boss. Craig F. Starr Gallery, New York, NY.
  • Ed Ruscha: Double Americanisms. Secession, Vienna, Austria.
  • Ed Ruscha: Gumbo of Gravel. Lora Reynolds Gallery, Austin, TX.
  • Ed Ruscha: Archaeology and Romance. Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX.
  • Ed Ruscha – VERY. KODE Art Museums and Composer Homes, Bergen, Norway; traveling to the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk, Denmark.
  • Word/Play: Prints, Photographs, and Paintings by Ed Ruscha. Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, NE.
  • Ed Ruscha: Course of Empire. The National Gallery of Art, London, England.


  • Custom-Built Intrigue: Drawings. Gagosian, New York, NY.
  • Music From the Balconies: Ed Ruscha and Los Angeles. Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, Scotland.


  • Ed Ruscha: Extremes and In-Betweens. Gagosian Gallery, Grosvenor Hill, London, England.
  • Ed Ruscha: Books & Co. Gagosian Gallery, Beverly Hills, CA.
  • Ed Ruscha; Mountain Prints. Gagosian Gallery, Geneva, Switzerland.
  • Ed Ruscha: Ribbon Words. Edward Tyler Nahem Fine Art, New York, NY.
  • Ed Ruscha and the Great American West. De Young Museum, San Francisco, CA.


  • Ed Ruscha: Prints and Photographs. Gagosian Gallery, Paris, France. 2014 The Letter kills, but Spirit gives life! Galerie Gradiva, Paris, France.
  • Ed Ruscha: Paintings. Gagosian Gallery, Rome, Italy.
  • Ed Ruscha: Prints and Photographs. Gagosian Gallery, 980 Madison Ave, New York, NY. 2013 In Focus: Ed Ruscha. The Getty Museum, Los Angeles, CA.
  • Ed Ruscha Books & Co. Gagosian Gallery, 980 Madison Avenue, New York, NY. Ed Ruscha: Books and Paintings. Brandhorst Museum, Munich, Germany.
  • Ed Ruscha: Los Angeles Apartments. Kunstmuseum Basel, Switzerland.


  • Ed Ruscha: Standard. Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA; traveling to The Rose Art Museum, Waltham, MA.
  • ARTIST ROOMS on Tour: Ed Ruscha. Tate, London, England; traveling to Hatton Gallery, Newcastle University, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England.
  • Reading Ed Ruscha. Gagosian Gallery, West 24th Street, New York, NY.
  • Ed Ruscha: Los Angeles. Then and Now. Peter Lund Gallery, Los Angeles, CA. Reading Ed Ruscha. Kunsthaus Bregenz, Bregenz, Austria.


  • Nice, Hot Vegetables: Ed Ruscha Works on Paper. Richard Gray Gallery, New York, NY.
  • Ed Ruscha: On the Road. Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA; traveled to Denver Art Museum, Denver, CO.
  • Ed Ruscha: Psycho Spaghetti Westerns. Gagosian Gallery, Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, CA.
  • Ed Ruscha: Road Tested. Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Fort Worth, TX.


  • Ed Ruscha: Artist Rooms. Inverness Museum and Art Gallery, Inverness, Scotland; traveled to
  • Swanson Gallery, Thurso, Scotland; Timespan, Helmsdale, Scotland; Wolverhampton Art Gallery, Wolverhampton, England.
  • Ed Ruscha: Apartments, Parking Lots, Palm Trees and Others: Films, Photographs and Drawings from 1961 to 1975. Sprüth Magers, Berlin, Germany. Ed Ruscha. Wetterling Gallery, Stockholm, Sweden.
  • Ed Ruscha: Libros. Sala Alcalá 31, Madrid, Spain.


Featured Artwork

Books of Ed Ruscha
1969, (2012) 
Duration: 23:17 min 
Edition: AP
Archival: DVD
Exhibition copy: mp4 digital file
DVD with booklet in a presentation box, signed by Ed Ruscha
Provenance: Los Angeles Art Association


[1]. Gagosian Gallery, “Ed Ruscha: About”, Gagosian Gallery, https://gagosian.com/artists/ed-ruscha/ (accessed August 29, 2019).
[2]. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, “Ed Ruscha”, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, https://www.guggenheim.org/artwork/artist/ed-ruscha (accessed August 29, 2019).
[3]. The J. Paul Getty Museum, “Ferus Gallery, Pacific Standard Time at the Getty Center”, Getty Museum, https://blogs.getty.edu/pacificstandardtime/explore-the-era/locations/ferus-gallery-2/ (accessed August 29, 2019).