Although known for his paintings and drawings, California artist Ed Ruscha has also attracted critical attention for his photography. A new exhibition and accompanying catalogue, Ed Ruscha, Photographer, departs from earlier analyses to explore how the artist s different disciplines painting, drawing, printmaking, and photography are guided and shaped by a single vision.
Ruscha’s relationship to photography is complex and ambivalent and his work is difficult to define. He has referred to his photography as a hobby but from the outset it has drawn considerable critical interest. The small books of photographs that Ruscha produced in the sixties and seventies earned him a reputation as an underground artist among his peers, and have influenced subsequent generations of artists in Europe and North America.
The photographs were snapshot size, with an amateurish quality that intrigued his contemporaries. Neither purely documentary nor solely artistic, their subject matter was stereotypical and banal, with motifs drawn from sites in Southern California or the western United States. This, combined with their serial presentation, created a mythical road-movie or photo-novel effect with Beat Generation innuendos and inspired interest among artists at a time when serial logic was prominent in Pop art and Minimalism, and later in Conceptual art.