Somefoundwordsandvariationson that. Words,photographsandsubject-matterin Ruscha'sphotobooks. Ed Ruscha was born in Oklahoma in 1937.

He studied in the Chouinard Art Institute, after being refused admission to the Art Center School, the best commercial school at the time in Los Angeles. In Chouinard he took studio classes -which insisted on Abstract Expressionism, as well as photography and graphic design courses on commercial art, which had been his initial inclination. He worked as an assistant to a printer and in an advertising agency. His first influences were Jasper Johns and Duchamp. The use of non artistic objects that both of them appealed to him. Also, Duchamp's emphasis on ideas,his manipulation of the language and deadpan humour. He began shooting pictures when he was at school, because he liked the immediacy of photography, which could capture reality in an instant, and put it back to painting. "The first book came out of a play with words. The title came before I even thought about the pictures. I like the word 'gasoline' and I like the specific quantity of 'twentysix'. " 1 WORDS/PHOTOGRAPHS Twentysix Gasoline Stations is Ruscha’s first photobook. Published in 1963, it collects 26 photographs of gasoline stations along Route 66, on the way from Oklahoma to Los Angeles. The pictures are black and white, placed in the right page of the book, with captions in the left pages. The cover is white, with title in red typography, also designed by Ruscha. There is not a linear narrative in the book. The pictures do not show a trajectory from point 1 to point 2, but were selected because of composition reasons. The order in which they are placed in the book is neither showing the real trip, but was chosen because of coherence between pictures. Each picture was shot once, with very few exceptions, and some of the pictures were afterwards cropped. The photographs are of amateurish quality, imperfect resolution and snapshot size, showing broad bands of empty road and sky. Ruscha’s intention was to shoot them in the most neutral manner. “Actually what I was after was a non-style or a non-statement with a no-style” 2. There are no contextual details, the importance is given to the subject, the pictures look quick, casual and unprofessional. The gas stations were shot from the distance, so that they fitted in the lens of the camera. This also enhanced the aspect of photo reportage. Ruscha regarded the camera as an instrument with which obtain the closest representation of reality. For him, shooting a photograph should be quick, matter of a moment, just to capture then and there, as if he was stealing something from reality 3. Photograph was only a medium to get something, not a end itself. The final aim was to get information to use in a drawing, or to create an object –the books. The pictures were taken with the sunlight in the back or the side of the stations, emphasizing their features, all in the same manner. All the stations share components: garage, store, gas tanks, overhang and trade logo. The pictures remark similarities and differences between them: they show the patterns of architecture. Ruscha was interested in how the function of the building would lead to a specific element, for example the overhangs. This interests makes us think of others recordings of industrial buildings, such as those of Bern and Hilla Becher, in Germany in 1959, who categorized them in typologies (silos, water towers, etc) 4. However, the intention of Ruscha had nothing to do with theirs, as I will explain. Ruscha used to work in a preplanned way. The origin of the work was a word, that could come to him when he


Coplands,J. “Concerning various small fires: Ed Ruscha Discusses His Perplexing Publications”, in Ruscha, E. Leave Any Information At The Signal, ed. Schwarz, A, p.23. Originally published in Artforum, v.5, February 1965, p. 24-25. 2 Barendse, H. M. “Ed Ruscha: An Inteview”, in Schwartz, A. Leave Any Information At The Signal, p. 217. Originally published in Afterimage, v. 8, n.7, February 1981, p. 8-10. 3 Rowell, M. Cotton Puffs, Q-tips, Smoke and Mirrors: The Drawings of Ed Ruscha, p. 24. Originally published in the Los Angeles Times, August 30, 2003, p. E48. 4 Rowell, M. Ed Ruscha, Photographer. p. 18. Published in Schwartz, A. Leave Any Information At The Signal, p.19.

indexical mark." Making a parody of the 'decisive moment'. Hatch claims. 6 However. Originally published in Studio International. On the asphalt of the lots appear unexpected markings.. p.. The closest representation to an apartment house in Some Los Angeles Apartments is a photograph. the closest delineation of that subject. The pictures were made from a plane. coming of oil droppings from the cars. a word. K. This leads to the emphasis on the elements that do not fit within the common characteristic of those ordinary moments. Ruscha showed us a series of aerial views of deserted parking lots. Afterwards. Ruscha shows us standard moments. in Schwartz. But. I’ll tell you what is more interesting: the oil droppings on the ground. just to represent the initial idea that took the form of a word. 7 Coleman. 1972. using Rosalind Krauss and Roland Barthes ideas about the relation between photograph and readymade. Ruscha’s captions appear to work as literally redundant. p. in Schwartz. something that is visible when there is signage in the image. and it became the title of the work. by a photographer that Ruscha hired. August 21. without making distinction between any of them. "What I'm interested in is in illustrating ideas. as art had evolved to a "quasi-tautological relation of signifier and signi fied". but as information. captions actually increase that distance in unexpected ways."5 As Sylvia Wolf recalls in Ed Ruscha and Photography. printed or even in a dream. In Thirtyfour Parking Lots in Los Angeles. A photograph is. “Ed Ruscha discusses His Latest Work with Christopher Fox”. D. and also the strange angles and variations in the page layout. Hatch remarks the oddity of the buildings photographs. 6 Hatch. “Something Else”: Ed Ruscha’s Photographic Books. because that becomes somebody else's vision of what it is. from 1967. Ruscha’s books play with the contingent. He was representing the word-subject matter. Barthes says. For them. The book collects images of modernist apartment buildings in Los Angeles. “My Books End Up in the Trash”. A. . nothing else. “a message without a code”. So what Ruscha did with his sequences of photographs was not a catalogue of examples of a functionalist architecture. Ruscha's third book from 1965. D12. but text and photograph mismatch. 5 Fox.I like facts. Photographs were a mean to explore it. 281-287. A. not a drawing. October 111. Winter 2005. selects and isolates the images that are shot. a verbal supplement recoded as art an otherwise uncoded. facts. Originally published in the New York Times. The pictures are accompanied by a straightforward caption.heard it. In much advanced art of the 1970s. which put the book far from the documentary project it seemed to be. linguistics. an image and the object were similar. with the chaos and infinity of possible moments." 7 Hatch has said that "Ruscha has insisted on the unprepared nature of the subject matter of his photobooks. Leave Any Information At The Signal. p.31. Krauss had spoken of the readymade as a transposition of an object from the continuum of reality into art. but they also acknowledge the inescapable relationship between contingency and pattern. by a moment of selection. and this is the camera's eye. Leave Any Information At The Signal. C.” Hatch establish a relation between these pictures and Aaron Siskind’s pictures of detritus and Brassaï’s found graffiti. June 1970. Ruscha claims that “t hose patterns and their abstract design quality mean nothing to me.49. ". p. Kevin Hatch explains the importance of words in Ruscha’s work. the photographer. Repeating it to himself made it important. Hatch disagrees with the fact that captions work in this way in Ruscha's books -which actually were published one decade before Conceptualist art. But he remarks that in each of those examples. 117. So the captions were needed. as a tautology. However the book seem to show different geometric arrangements of the same typology. At first. It was not until long time after that Ruscha began to look at them as art. In addition. Ruscha did not want to create a taxonomic repertory. Where this is easier to be seen is in Some Los Angeles Apartments. p. the integration of language into art was characteristic of many artists of the moment. This crucial moment of (premeditate) selection is similar to taking a snapshot. A. he went out to collect the subject matter. facts are in this books. not as objects of art. Ruscha considered his photographs as readymades.

Photographer. But for Ruscha introducing photography directly in his paintings. Ed Ruscha and Photography. K. 11 Ruscha talks of movies. apart from that Ruscha oeuvre is characterised by the representation of words. the book is similar to the others. the iconography of the West Coast fascinated Ruscha. 10 The pictures were made during a road trip. As Margit Rowell mentions in Ed Ruscha. October 111. M. what involved him in a long work of cutting and pasting the photographs together. parking lots. Popular culture was a very popular source material in the 1960s in the United States. Also vernacular subjects. 112 11 Wolf.By contrast. Cotton Puffs. 116-117. Ruscha had always been deeply interested in typography. was out of the question. 10 Hatch. this proves the non-existence of the 'decisive moment'. “Something Else”: Ed Ruscha’s Photographic Books. 12 Rowell. Ruscha was very influenced by the proximity of Hollywood and by California landscapes. 20. photography was a medium. Ed Ruscha. Billboards are giant graphic representation of words.. Ruscha himself saw some of the pictures themselves as cinematic. because of the implemented perspective. p. and also it is implicit in each of the photographs. They reminded him to the trains approaching in the movies he watched in his childhood 9. it is about what the title is telling us. palm trees. p. As I mentioned earlier. and particularly of John Ford’s The Grapes of Wrath. however the book is not about the trip. as well as the sheer stillness of each of them. apartment buildings. His predilection for signs can be seen here and in some of other photographs. S. open. 8 9 Hatch. it is frustrated by the non narrative sequence of the pictures. 12 The billboards of the stations are one of the elements that each picture in Twenty six Gasoline Stations have in common. As Margit Powell says. a medium to see fast.8 HOLLYWOOD/CALIFORNIA COMMONPLACE The seriality of Twentysix Gasoline Stations and the other books could make us feel as watching at a roadmovie. Closed. especially for the use of black and white photography. “Something Else”: Ed Ruscha’s Photographic Books. as if we were driving through it. Ruscha used a 35mm camera on a car. For this publication. Billboards intentions is to emphasize words and make clear the message. . cinematic movement is the sequence of snapshot set in motion. and "the occasions of aesthetic interest are generated by the systematic nature of the project. K. October 111. M. and in some of his other books." Again. He designed the book as a accordion foldout. This cinematic condition is more obvious in his fourth book Every Building on the Sunset Strip (1966). California landscapes were the main motif in the photobooks: gas stations. pp. They appeared frequently in his paintings and photographs.140. as Warhol did. They also appear in the buildings of Sunset Strip.. its subject matter is the gas stations. as a influence for him. The car was a fundamental tool in the execution of the work. Ruscha had released the decision of the snapshot to a hired photographer. and that however. and their subject matter is an icon of car-culture. 18. Photographer another connection between Los Angeles car-culture and Ruscha can be seen in his strong interest in billboards. p. Cited in Rowell. Every Building on the Sunset Strip can be regarded as a movie in still images. as in Some Los Angeles Apartments and Real Estate Opportunities. it is probable that Ruscha's was influenced by their "condensed expression and deadpan humour". Q-tips. and shot a continuous strip of black and white motion picture film. pools. Smoke and Mirrors: The Drawings of Ed Ruscha. Kevin Hatch remarks that movement should take place offstage. p. as it is evident by his paintings -and the photobooks' covers. we can see a continuous image of the façades on Sunset Strip. Winter 2005. Winter 2005. especially after the 1970s. beyonds camera's reach. as Wolf affirms.

October 111. Twentysix Gasoline Stations was printed for 400 copies.. pp. Some of the pictures have sings as subjects. he wanted to be a commercial artist). the creation of cheap. carefully designed. implied a preplanned process. Ruscha produced objects of art –even though they were non conventional. the non conventional material. Ruscha. The subjects that Ruscha would choose as subject matter would be always mundane. pp. it was then something that could be reproduced and which photographs could be exchanged. 330. 109. October 111. Winter 2005. The first of his books. Hatch. some associated them to Conceptual Art. complex and difficult to categorize. "An Interview with Ed Ruscha" in Schwarz. "Thermometers Should Last Forever". to create an object of art. Ed Ruscha's 16 photobooks are among of his more influential works. It was not an spontaneous. his books were physical objects. Others focus in architectural façades or products displays. p. They are the object of art in themselves. I am not trying to create a precious limited edition book. expressionist act. However. Ruscha was proud of his book.” 15 Bibliography Bois. the photobooks were these non conventional objects of art and photographs. while Conceptual artist were interested in the artistic process.14 The books invite to collective consideration." He thought of his books as a friendly object. that for him. but a mass produced object of high order. which were to be sold for $3 each. Originally published in “Interviews with Ed Ruscha and Bruce Conner. Leave Any Information at the Signal. He wanted everyone to afford his books. with a title-subject matter which will be an ordinary architecture or everyday object. He already was interested in signs (actually. BOOKS Ruscha’s working methods. also landscapes. broken into stages. knew clearly. The subject matter is normally vernacular. R. Title would determinate the set of photographs inside.. repeated exhaustively and illustrated later. October 78. "A User's Guide To Entropy".-A. as I said.and clearly. in 1961 on his trip to Europe. Hatch. they were first linked to Pop. the offhand snapshots he took show this interest for ordinary scenes. The subject matter was the word(s). 39-88. he still paid attention to crafts. dimensions and carefully designed. 13 14 Cited in Wolf. K. conceived as readymades. as Wolf explains.” October 70. and Krauss. p. K. 55. "I want to be the Henry Ford of book making. A.-A."13 This. pp. “Something Else”: Ed Ruscha’s Photographic Books. as Hatch remarks. professional photographers and filmmakers were sensitive to their prosaic character and their urban landscapes. Almost never (as almost never later on) there are people in the pictures. commonplace. but something with an idea behind. since he was studying at Chouinard. Ed Ruscha and Photography. p. heart or read. pp. Y. 15 Ruscha in Armstrong. with no context or specificity of place. Architects were interested because of the vernacular subject matter. 107-126. with specific weights.120. mass-production objects was a subversive act at that point in time. they influenced Postpop and Postminimalism artists. 60-80. in which the idea is the most important aspect of the work and where decisions are planned. S. "What I really want is a professional polish. a clear-cut machine finish. Winter 2005. E. Fall 1994. and also the use of serial repetition. his interest in them is due to their lack of artistic value. In addition. He will to use non conventional materials to make art. Bois. fascination for Los Angeles landscape was decisive. later to American photo-documentary. Y. in this case. Fall 1996. link him to Conceptual Art. For him. the making of the object of art was important to him. Winter 2005. all of them with the same or similar format.Already at the very beginning of his career. . they were successful as a readymade: “I feel that the spirit of [Duchamp’s] work is stronger in my books than in anything else. Being a massproduction object. which he gave in to friends. the final aim of Ruscha's work. October 111. dreamed. When he chose them. before enrolling in Chouinard Art Institute. “Something Else: Ed Ruscha’s Photographic Books". imagined.

Schwarz. Ruscha. M. Cambridge. Q-tips. Leave Any Information at the Signal. S. Rowell. Wolf. Smoke and Mirrors: The Drawings of Ed Ruscha. 2004. "L. Ed Ruscha and the Language That He Used". Cotton Puffs. A.Pasquariello. e. New York. The MIT Press. M. photographer. 2004.81-106. Rowell. . New York. pp. October 111. E. Ed Ruscha. Winter 2005. Ed Ruscha and Photography. Whitney Museum of American Art. New York. Whitney Museum of American Art. Whitney Museum of American Art. 2006. 2002.

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