This work will be included in a future volume of Edward Ruscha: Catalogue Raisonné of the Works on Paper, edited by Lisa Turvey.
After moving to Los Angeles from Oklahoma City in 1956, Ed Ruscha began working as a typesetter for a printing press, and so began his love affair with the letter. In the journey of creating and designing his own font, called Boy Scout Utility Modern, he explored all motions and expressions of the written word. While studying at the Chouinard Art Institute, many of his peers were experimenting with Abstract Expressionism, a movement in which Ruscha struggled to find his own voice. Instead, Ruscha turned to what was familiar and accessible: letters, words and his Los Angeles surroundings.
Having spent over 50 years developing his signature style, Ruscha is uniquely able to create meaning in juxtaposing text and landscape. He has stated, “I like looking at the word long enough to lose the meaning.” Indeed, in G & Golf Ball, Ruscha not only emphasizes the massive painted letter ‘g,’ but also appeals to the relationship of the word “go” and its forward motion. The composition of this work can be read separately as either a ‘g’ and a golf ball, or as “go,” propelling the viewer through the meaning of the word and their relationship to it. The ball is thrust into motion and leaves the question to the viewer of when the action started; perhaps before the word, reflected by the line beginning out of view, and similarly to numerous actions where much is in motion before it is willed.
Although many of Ruscha’s works carry consistency in their themes, unique to this work is the use of the incised line across the sheet, mimicking what appears to be a trajectory line of the golf ball. This trompe l’oeil effect imbues an otherwise static composition with a sense of movement and landscape. The path of the incised line also evokes a winding highway, a source of inspiration for much of Ruscha’s oeuvre. Ultimately, G & Golf Ball combines both abstraction and figuration in a masterful way is unique to the work of Ed Ruscha.