• Post-War & Contemporary Art Ev auction at Christies

    Sale 2597

    Post-War & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

    14 November 2012, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 45

    Edward Ruscha (b. 1937)


    Price Realised  


    Edward Ruscha (b. 1937)
    signed, inscribed and dated 'E. Ruscha 1967 gp' (lower edge)
    gunpowder and ink on paper
    14¼ x 23¾ in. (36.2 x 60.3 cm.)
    Executed in 1967.

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    Works from the Collection of Douglas S. Cramer

    Douglas S. Cramer is one of the most successful production executives in television history. Cramer has been responsible for producing and developing many of the defining programs on U.S. television from the 1960s through the 1980s, many with Aaron Spelling. At the height of their influence Spelling and Cramer's programs accounted for over eight hours of U.S. television airtime each week. In addition to the long-running smash hit Dynasty and its spin-off The Colbys, the hits Cramer was crucial to developing include such memorable television series as The Love Boat, The Brady Bunch, Batman, The Odd Couple, Mission Impossible and Peyton Place. In all, Cramer was responsible for the creation of over eighty television movies and mini-series during this period, including personally producing television's first-ever mini-series, the memorable dramatization of Leon Uris' powerful novel QB VII - a program which was nominated for thirteen Emmys in 1974 and won six.

    Cramer's interest in visual culture and the performing arts also extends to the fine arts for which he has developed an equal passion. Since the early 1960s onwards, Cramer has played an equally influential role in the promotion, support and patronage of contemporary American art. A founder of the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art and Head of the Painting and Sculpture Committee at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, he has acquired and gifted works to many of the world's leading museums and has built one of the largest and finest private art collections of the last fifty years. After spending much of his working day reviewing film rushes, rough edits and a whole range of moving imagery, the quiet, resonant power of the fixed image is something that provides Cramer with an enduring source of pleasure and fascination. 'I love to have something frozen for me.' he says, 'that I can return to time after time and continues to resonate.'

    From his childhood onwards Cramer has had an almost insatiable need to collect beautiful things. Reflective of Cramer's passionate interest in and curiosity about the art and culture currently going on all around him, the remarkable size, nature and content of his collection has been in a near perpetual state of flux. His Collection is one that has ebbed and flowed, deepened and expanded over time in response to the rhythms and moves of his prolific and varied life racing between New York and Los Angeles.

    First started when Cramer was a young aspiring broadcaster working in advertising in the 1960s, the content of his Collection has moved from its beginnings in prints and drawings of 20th Century masters, to Californian painters of the 1960s, from European modern masters and spectacular holdings of favorite American modernists such as Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein and Ellsworth Kelly, to 1980s painters like David Salle, Eric Fischl and Julian Schnabel, and on to contemporary artists of today with John Currin, Cecily Brown, Elizabeth Peyton and Lisa Yuskavage. Periodically and often in accordance with their creator's wishes to have their works end up in a specific museum or collection, Cramer has sold, lent and given hundreds of works to a variety of museums as well as private and public institutions. As Cramer points out, 'none of us really owns the art - its something we're fortunate enough to be able to have for a part of our lifetime.'

    Executed in 1967, this work will be included in a forthcoming volume of Edward Ruscha: Catalogue Raisonné of the Works on Paper.

    Sin is a drawing from a signature series of Ed Ruscha's from the late 1960s. What at first glance appears to be a softly focused photograph or an exacting pencil study is infact an image made from gunpowder. The word sin is given physical voice by what appears to be strips of paper illuminated by a low raking light. Ruscha produced such famed 'ribbon' letter drawings between 1966 and 1973, predominantly in this highly original and exotic art material. He had during this period, virtually given up paints for an excursion into alternative mediums, including coffee, vegetable juices, rose petals and grass. His use of gunpowder was arguably the most successful experiment, spawning some of his best-known works on paper. The discovery was made by soaking gunpowder pellets in water to leach out the salts, "it left a charcoal that had a kind of a warm tone to it," Rusha explains, "and it could be used in a way that was very easy to correct when you wanted to... And so it became a convenient material, and a material that I liked. It had a good surface to it" (E. Ruscha, quoted in C. Cherix "Interview with Ed Ruscha," Oral History Program, Museum of Modern Art Archives, New York, 24 January 2012, p. 42).

    Ruscha has created a delicate trompe l'oeil from his chosen word, forming the curves and squiggles by hand to represent it in an elegant cursive script. When the gunpowder drawings were exhibited in his first solo show in New York in 1967, the precision of Ruscha's technique meant some viewers thought they were airbrushed. The discovery of their true medium caused a sensation. These early single word drawings are also a pure expression of Ruscha's concept that words can perform as an object, a title, an image and a plastic element all in one. Although he is generally fascinated with the graphic appearance of written words, rather than their implied meanings, it is tempting to read some autobiographical content into such an evocative word as sin. With his middle class, mid-western Catholic upbringing, Ruscha felt liberated when he moved to Los Angeles in 1956, but he has not forgotten his roots or its influence on his art: "...it probably does permeate everything I do, and I see traces here and there--Catholic literature, for instance, has been littered with images of light shafts for centuries" (E. Ruscha, in K. McKenna, "Lightening up the Getty,"TLos Angeles Times, 24 May 24 1998, Calendar p. 4).


    Alexander Iolas Gallery, New York
    William Copley, New York
    His sale; Sotheby's, New York, 6 November, 1979, lot 314
    Michel Cohen, Geneva
    James Corcoran Gallery, Santa Monica
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

    Pre-Lot Text

    Works from the Douglas S. Cramer Collection


    R.D. Marshall, Ed Ruscha, London, 2003, p. 118 (illustrated in color).


    New York, Alexander Iolas Gallery, Ed Ruscha: Gunpowder Drawings, December 1967-January 1968.
    San Francisco, John Berggruen Gallery, Ed Ruscha: A Selection of Drawings, March-April 1982.
    San Francisco, Modernism Inc., Ed Ruscha: Early Drawings, October-December 1991.