ED RUSCHA (B. 1937)
ED RUSCHA (B. 1937)
ED RUSCHA (B. 1937)
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ED RUSCHA (B. 1937)
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On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more Visionary: The Paul G. Allen Collection
ED RUSCHA (B. 1937)

Bamboo Pole

ED RUSCHA (B. 1937)
Bamboo Pole
signed and dated 'Ed Ruscha 1980' (on the stretcher)
oil on canvas
20 x 158 3/4 in. (50.8 x 403.2 cm.)
Painted in 1980
Ace Gallery, Venice.
The Capitol Group, Los Angeles.
Anon. sale, Sotheby's, New York, 9 November 1989, lot 298.
Gad Marciano, Geneva (acquired at the above sale).
Anon. sale, Christie's, New York, 15 May 2002, lot 173.
Acquired at the above sale by the late owner.
A. Morch, “The Legend’s Beginning,” in San Francisco Examiner, 1982, p. E10.
A. Perry, “Ed Ruscha Offers Entertaining Art,” in Vancouver Province, 1982, p. D-1.
P. Johnson, “Spam What Am,” in Houston Chronicle, 1983, p. 14.
R. Dean and E. Wright, eds., Edward Ruscha: Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings, Volume Two: 1971-1982, New York, 2005, p.298, no. P1980.04 (illustrated in color, p. 299).
Venice, Ace Gallery, Ed Ruscha: Paintings, 1980.
Vancouver, Ace Gallery, Ed Ruscha: Recent Paintings, 1981.
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; New York, Whitney Museum of American Art; Vancouver Art Gallery; Houston, Contemporary Arts Museum and Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The Works of Edward Ruscha, March 1982-June 1983, pp. 141-143, no. 50 (illustrated in color, pl. 140).
Los Angeles, Security Pacific National Bank, Gallery at the Plaza, California Paintings and Sculpture from the Collection of The Capitol Group, September-December 1985.
Special notice
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial interest in the outcome of the sale of certain lots consigned for sale. This will usually be where it has guaranteed to the Seller that whatever the outcome of the auction, the Seller will receive a minimum sale price for the work. This is known as a minimum price guarantee. This is such a lot.

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Max Carter
Max Carter Vice Chairman, 20th and 21st Century Art, Americas

Lot Essay

An unparalleled figure in American art, Ed Ruscha has established a singularly ingenious oeuvre over the course of his storied career. Existing at the crux of Pop Art and Conceptual thought, his highly specific approach to painting has elicited praise for both its seemingly detached inscrutability as well as its prescient commentary on contemporary life since the 1960s. Bamboo Pole is a striking example of the artist’s ability to lionize the mundane while referencing the history of art and the avant-garde in equal measure.

Known for his dynamic word paintings that combine textual snippets with moody gradients, mountain vistas, and the landscape of California, Ruscha’s interest in establishing meaningful visual juxtapositions extends to solitary objects like the titular pole. “Vital art”, Ruscha has said, “is made out of things that the general population has overlooked. The things that are forgotten and thrown away are the things that eventually come back around and cry for attention. The artist sees possibilities in things that are overlooked. Seeing the electric vibrancy in something that’s so dead. The forgotten things are a source of food” (E. Ruscha, quoted in Ed Ruscha, exh. cat., Modern Art Oxford, Oxford, 2001, p. 161). Raising it into the burning red clouds, the artist gives new vibrancy to the quotidian length of wood and asks for a reexamination of the everyday.

Rendered on an extreme horizontal, Bamboo Pole is a large-scale example of a series Ruscha undertook in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Each depicting smoldering sunsets from various locales, these panoramic canvases took the open sky as subject with titles like Mexico, Texas Oklahoma, Kansas (1980) and America’s Future (1979). True to form, Ruscha creates an airless quality that tends toward surrealism even while treading the line between coldly conceptual and picturesque. In only a few of the works in this grouping are extraneous objects introduced which push the compositions into more intriguing visual territory. Bamboo Pole is one of these examples, and the gentle arc of a single bamboo shaft splits the glowing clouds like the exhaust trail of a jet across the sky. Curving from the bottom left up to the right corner, the pole floats as if caught in a gravitational field atop a warm gradient that heaves upwards from white to red. The painting is both of the object itself and of the perplexing interaction between the stick and its sublime backdrop. “Usually in my paintings, I'm creating some sort of disorder between the different elements”, Ruscha has said “[...] I like the feeling of an enormous pressure in a painting” (E. Ruscha, quoted in R. Marshall, Ed Ruscha, New York 2003, p. 241). Pitting simple subjects against the vastness of skyscapes, Ruscha establishes an energetic dichotomy that enchants the viewer while keeping them at arm’s length.

Ruscha was included in the seminal exhibition New Painting of Common Objects that included Pop progenitors like Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol and was curated by Walter Hopps at the Pasadena Art Museum in 1962. Linked as he was initially to these artists, he remained separate from Pop Art proper and has chosen to focus on the intricacies of language, objects, and the very heart of painting itself in a practice tinged with wry wit and dark humor. The horizontal skyscapes from which the current example hails were painted just a few years before a major retrospective of Ruscha’s work mounted in 1982-83 by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Bamboo Pole was included in the show as it traveled to Vancouver, New York, Houston, and Los Angeles, and readily highlights Ruscha’s ability to coax both majesty and absurdity from the most humble of subjects.

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