If there is beauty to be found in the corporate artifice that smothers the American cultural consciousness, Ed Ruscha has undeniably traced it. Or, at the very least, has managed to beautifully depict the absence of it. Nebraska-born, Oklahoma-raised Ruscha, whose cross-medium works played a formidable role in the American pop art movement of the mid-19th century, has deftly navigated the cognitive dissonance inherent to American physiology for over 50 years. This season, New York’s Museum of Modern Art celebrates the artist’s interpolation of the country’s ethos by putting on the most comprehensive exhibition of Ruscha's work ever staged: ED RUSCHA/ NOW THEN. The exhibition, which is on until January 13th, 2024, is organized in close collaboration with the artist and features over 200 of Ruscha’s works across mediums, produced from 1958 to the present. Displayed throughout the museum's sixth floor galleries, NOW/THEN highlights lesser-known dimensions of Ruscha’s practice, flushing out a chronology that examines commercialism and popular culture as it proliferates across the collective international psyche.
Beginning with Ruscha’s formative years, the exhibition highlights Ruscha’s travels across the United States and Europe, with works highlighting roadside architecture, consumer items, and public signage. Works like Oof (1962/1963) marry Ruscha’s fascination with typography to his long standing examination of language as it presents itself viscerally, visually. Cross-media displays trace iconography across mediums– like the Standard Oil gasoline station depicted in his book, Twentysix Gasoline Stations (1963), which later became enormously popular when he transferred the image into a series of oil paintings shortly after the book was published. In addition, Ruscha’s only single-room installation, Chocolate Room (1970), created for the United States pavilion during the 35th Venice Biennale, will be on display for the first time in New York.
The installation is accompanied by both a printed publication and a programme of Ruscha’s films from the 1970s, recently scanned and restored in 4K, some fifty years after their making.