Ed Ruscha (b. 1937)
Ed Ruscha (b. 1937)

Cold Beer Beautiful Girls

Ed Ruscha (b. 1937)
Cold Beer Beautiful Girls
signed and dated 'Ed Ruscha 93' (on the reverse), signed and dated again and titled 'ED RUSCHA "COLD BEER BEAUTIFUL GIRLS" 1993' (on the stretcher)
acrylic on canvas
84 x 60 1/8 in. (213.4 x 152.5 cm.)
Painted in 1993.
Leo Castelli, New York
John Berggruen Gallery, San Francisco
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art, Radical Scavenger(s): The Conceptual Vernacular in Recent American Art, February-April 1994.

Lot Essay

This work will be included in the forthcoming Ed Ruscha catalogue raisonné volume III being prepared by Pat Poncy and will be assigned an archive number at a later time.

Since 1961, Ed Ruscha has ingeniously used "found" words and phrases as imagery in his painting - an inspiration which is grounded in Pop ideology, but expands into poetic, conceptual and surreal arenas, defying easy categorization. Present in his text paintings is Ruscha's particular brand of Western optimism and humor, with a sizzling-hot flavor of American Western culture, which is distinct for its quick wit and sense of place.

Ruscha's source material is found all around him - on street signs, road signs, in conversations, and at the movies. Ruscha found the inspiration for Cold Beer Beautiful Girls, 1993 (the only painting in the artist's oeuvre to utilize this provocative text) from a beckoning sign outside an Oregon bar. In classic Ruscha style, this string of borrowed words has cool machismo and resonates with desire, humor, and a trace of nostalgia.

The text is set against a dazzling sky, with only a hint of landscape edging the bottom of the composition. But the heavenly view is subverted by the humorous and exuberant text, and the block letters themselves bring actual space to bear upon the fictional pictorial space.

Ruscha has been fascinated with concerns of space and perspective from the inception of his artistic career in the 1950's. The artist creates opulent, expansive grounds upon which he situates his text: crimson sunsets, celestial night skies, strings of city lights, heavenly mists, and black cloudless skies afford a romantic counter-balance to his down-to-earth, often wisecracking words.

The bigger-than-life scale of Cold Beer Beautiful Girls gives weight to the words that confront the viewer from head to toe. We hear the words as much as we see them. Then by surrealist technique, Ruscha adeptly dislocates them from their uttered meaning by setting them against an incongruous, ethereal sky of expansive cumulous clouds. They are thereby set free to be pictorial, and to mean something new, something the viewer resolves. One is reminded of Ruscha's central theme for his mural project at the Lannan Library, King Claudius' lament in Shakespeare's Hamlet:

My words fly up, my thoughts remain below:
Words without thoughts never to heaven go.


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