Of all the artists associated with West Coast art, Edward Ruscha is one of the best known. He was there at the birth Los Angeles’s postwar art scene, which sprang up in the late 1950s and early 1960s around a sprinkling of forward-looking galleries, including the Ferus Gallery. Ruscha had is solo debut there in 1963, going on to 60 years of artistic production that won him global acclaim and a spot as the U.S. representative at the 2005 Venice Biennale.
Ruscha’s current retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art testifies to his achievements. Co-organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and on view through January 13, 2024, “Ed Ruscha/Now Then” offers a comprehensive overview of his multivalent practice, which includes painting, printmaking, drawing, bookmaking, and installation art. It reveals an artist with a cagey, deadpan sense of humor, whose focus on on the dialectic between reality and illusion eventually developed into a meditation on the American dream.
Throughout, Los Angeles, a city known for evanescent sunshine, movie magic, and all-pervasive freeways, remained Ruscha’s muse and touchstone, reflected in paintings and works on paper that are at once crisply delineated and mirage-like. Below, ARTnews revisits Ruscha’s life, art, and aesthetic vision through some of his best-known works.