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    Sale 1904

    Post War and Contemporary Art Morning Session

    14 November 2007, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 174

    Ed Ruscha (b. 1937)


    Price Realised  


    Ed Ruscha (b. 1937)
    signed twice, titled and dated twice 'Ed Ruscha '86' (on the reverse) and 'EDWARD RUSCHA UNTITLED 1986' (on the stretcher)
    acrylic on canvas
    64 x 78 in. (162.6 x 198.1 cm.)
    Painted in 1986.

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    This work will be included in the forthcoming Edward Ruscha Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings, vol. 3, edited by Robert Dean and Erin Wright, no. P1986.10 (illustrated in color).

    Ed Ruscha's stunning Untitled is from the series of shadow paintings the artist began producing in the mid 1980's. Moved by Franz Kline's decision to work only with black and white, Ruscha recalls, "I remember this notion I had in school about Franz Kline, thinking how great it was that this man only worked with black and white. In thought at some point in my life I would also work with black and white, and here it is."(quoted in F.Fehlau, "Ed Ruscha," Flash Art, January/February 1988, 70-72.)

    Smooth as silver gelatin prints and just out of focus, his enigmatic shadow paintings were also inspired by black and white photography and old celluloid film. Interviewed on this series, the artist explains, "The dark paintings came mostly from photography, although they are not photographically done or anything. I feel that they are related to the subject of photographythey are dark and strokeless, they're painted with an airbrush." (E. Ruscha, quoted in T. Beller, "Ed Ruscha," Splash, February 1989, n.p.)

    At once indexical and ambiguous, the shadow paintings harp on a vague American cultural nostalgia. In the same way that Ruscha's word paintings act as textual signifiers for a particular mood, this hulking silhouette of an elephant is a singular expression of the cinematic tragicomic. It is no coincidence that the painting's near twin, entitled Jumbo, (in the MOMA's permanent collection) is phonetically linked to the piteous, Disney character with a set of awkward ears and an incurable case of stage-freight. Burdened by his physicality, he is an outsider under the exacting lights of the big top. While the Disney character does get a happy ending, Ruscha's painting refuses to deliver a Hollywood pipe-dream and remains hauntingly unresolved. Like some films by David Lynch, Untitled has a presence and evokes a distinctly Californian mise-en-scene linked to the darker aspects of Hollywood, a theme which has long fascinated, and continues to engross Ruscha.


    James Corcoran Gallery, Santa Monica
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

    Pre-Lot Text

    Property from the Collection of a Private Trust


    Edward Ruscha: Words Without Thoughts Never to Heaven Go, exh. cat., Lake Worth and New York, 1988, p. 33 (illustrated in color).
    D. Ehrenfeld, "Who Will Be Left in the Earth's Community?" Orion Nature Quarterly, 1989, p. 4 (illustrated).
    J.A. Lewis, "Ed Ruscha, Getting Beyond Words: At the Hirshhorn, the Painter Who No Longer Spells Out His Affinity for Conceptual Art," Washington Post, July 2 2000, p. G6 (illustrated in color).
    J. Wainwright, "Ed Ruscha," Contemporary, 2002, p. 95.
    New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Ed Ruscha and Photography, exh. cat., 2004, p. 207 (illustrated in color).


    New York, Robert Miller Gallery, Ed Ruscha, 1987, pl. 5 (illustrated in color). Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art, Ed Ruscha: Recent Paintings, January-April 1988, (illustrated on the cover).
    Washington D.C., Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden; Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art; Miami Art Museum; Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth; Oxford, Museum of Modern Art and Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, Ed Ruscha, September 2000-April 2002, pp. 106 and 107 (illustrated in color).