Thursday, 12 November 2009

Ed Ruscha : Fifty years of painting....

....Hayward, until 10th Jan 2010.
I was always going to love this show. And for me, the brutalistic architecture of the Southbank Centre, within which the exhibition is held, evokes a Ruscha painting in itself.

Standard Station, 1966.

Ruscha, (pronounced Rew-Shay), fuses traditional painting with graphic design, typography and cinema. The L.A artist has legendary status, his work never seeming to date, his ideas constantly pushing the boundaries. (Similar to another Californian whom I admire so much, James Rosenquist).

Exhibiting only his paintings of the last fifty years, (some billboard, some a great deal smaller in size), I am afforded the opportunity to see the work up close for the first time. It is only now that I appreciate the intricacies of detail in brush stroke, in the masking off of letters and the intensity and depth of the backgrounds. I am awe struck.

Oof, 1962

Ruscha displays his words as images in their own right - where they take on an ability to speak to the viewer through type, paint, poetry and parody. Perhaps a mute noun against loud colour for example.

Back of Hollywood, 1977

The show is extensive, exploring Ruscha's pictures without words and his black & white cinema tinged works of the early 90s - from which is one of my many favourites:

Exit, 1990

In the final room, old paintings are hung alongside new, recreated versions. But in the latter, Ruscha adapts the piece to reflect how the subject may have changed over the elapsed time period.

Blue Collar Tech Chem, 1992 / The Old Tech-Chem Building, 2003

Overall, the exhibition is incredible, highlighting that for all Ruscha's experiments, he has mostly stayed true to his sign painter routes. As he says himself, "I have pretty much been doing the same thing since I was 18 years old", but what brilliance that 'thing' is.

The End, 1991.

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