American artist Ed Ruscha is a pioneer of the 1960’s Pop Art movement known for his signature ‘word paintings’, which incorporate text with images of landscapes. Ruscha studied art in Los Angeles after moving from Omaha, Nebraska in 1956 where he explored a variety of media including painting, collage, printmaking, photography and drawing. His work conflates many influences from Jasper John’s Target with Four Faces (1958), to Pop Artists Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein. His renowned piece OOF, encapsulates popular culture, cartoons and comic strips he drew upon.
In the 1960’s, he rebelled against Abstract Expressionism in practising surrealist work such as Strange Catch for a Fresh Water Fish. He painted objects, often graphite pencils, floating in minimal spaces. His fascination with landscapes began in 1962, photographing gas stations along Route 66, referencing the Beat Generation and reminiscent of Edward Hopper’s Gas Station. He published these in the iconic first art book Twenty-Six Gasoline Station. His work changed course in the 1980s, when he combined the subject of popular culture and Southern and Southern Californian landscapes, with ‘’Hollywood’’. Ed Ruscha juxtaposes the Hollywood sign on the crest of the Santa Monica Mountains ridge, against a torrid red horizon. Ed Ruscha referred to the background images as ‘stage settings’ for the foregrounded words. He continued to explore these paradigms, creating humorous, deadpan depictions of popular culture and language. His ‘Psycho Spaghetti Western’ exhibit in 2011 displayed desolate landscapes littered with mattresses, junk, tires and other discarded domestic items on diagonal planes.