press release

Ed Ruscha, born in 1937, is an icon of modern art and exceedingly prolific to this day. His paintings are ambiguous and provocative, recycling scraps from popular culture and redefining established genres. Is he one of the first pop artists, a trail-blazer of conceptual art, a late surrealist, a pioneer of postmodernism, or a bit of everything, all rolled into one? Ed Ruscha started out in graphic design, photography and film-making; ever since he left the Midwest for California, however, painting has been his main focus. This exhibition presents works ranging from his debut at the famous Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles, Documenta Kassel and the Venice Biennale, to the present day, when new generations are discovering his radical oeuvre.

The ostensibly commonplace subject matter, as though taken from an advertising campaign or shot from the driver’s seat, is inserted in new painterly contexts: early portraits of words, absurdly realistic paintings of mountain ranges and petrol stations, and later, more monumental works where complete sentences are contrasted against a dreamlike background. His works reveal a characteristic fascination for the power and enigma of language, and feature sharp paradoxes, ambiguities and contradictions. Ed Ruscha shifts the meaning of what we see, right before our eyes, and says: The most an artist can do is to start something and not give the whole story. That’s what makes mystery.

The exhibition is largely hung in chronological order and the paintings are grouped thematically. Between these themes, new connections arise; many mutual bonds have been made in the course of half a century of painting. Ed Ruscha’s oeuvre shows a strong consistency; his method of rummaging through our culture for material makes this exhibition an incisive and ever-morphing portrayal of Los Angeles, and thus, in a broader sense, of our time.

Curators, Stockholm: Lars Nittve and Ann-Sofi Noring Curator, London: Ralph Rugoff

Exhibition organised by Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre, London in association with Moderna Museet, Stockholm.

Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre, London, 14 October 2009-10 January 2010 Haus der Kunst, Munchen, 12 February-2 May 2010 Moderna Museet, Stockholm, 29 May-5 September 2010

Ed Ruscha
Fifty Years of Painting
Kuratoren: Ralph Rugoff, Lars Nittve, Ann-Sofi Noring

14.10.09 - 10.01.10 Hayward Gallery, London
12.02.10 - 02.05.10 Haus der Kunst
29.05.10 - 05.09.10 Moderna Museet Stockholm