Ed Ruscha (b. 1937)
The Clarke Collection
Ed Ruscha (b. 1937)

Brave Men Run in My Family

Ed Ruscha (b. 1937)
Brave Men Run in My Family
signed and dated 'Ed Ruscha 88' (lower right); signed again, titled and dated again 'ED RUSCHA "BRAVE MEN RUN IN MY FAMILY" 1988' (on the reverse)
dry pigment, acrylic and graphite on paperboard
60 x 40 1/8 in. (152.4 x 101.9 cm.)
Executed in 1988.
Leo Castelli Gallery, New York
Karsten Schubert, Ltd., London
Richard Salmon, Esq., London
Private collection, Europe
Anon. sale; Christie's, Los Angeles, 9 June 1999, lot 159
Private collection, Malibu
James Corcoran Gallery, Los Angeles
Brooke Alexander Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner
T. Godfrey, Drawing Today: Draughtsmen in the Eighties, New York, 1990, p. 51, no. 36 (illustrated).
L. Turvey, Edward Ruscha: Catalogue Raisonné of the Works on Paper, Volume Two: 1977-1997, New York, 2018, p. 266, no. D1988.08 (illustrated).
T. Sale and C. Betti, Drawing: A Contemporary Approach, Sixth Edition, California, 2002, p. 226, no. 10.6 (illustrated).
London, Karsten Schubert, Ltd., Ed Ruscha: Recent Works on Paper, June-August 1988, pp. 12-13 (illustrated).
New York, Brooke Alexander Gallery, Richard Artschwager/Ed Ruscha, April-July 2004.

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Emily Kaplan
Emily Kaplan

Lot Essay

Ed Ruscha masterfully commands word and image, coupling them in symphony to resonate immediately with the viewer. Such visual power is perfectly distilled in Brave Men Run in My Family, heightened by the work’s theatrical scale and regal subject matter. The stenciled words fall in sharp diagonal, rendered in a translucent amber paint through which the vaporous pigment emits. As the words descend, a majestic galleon swells up, a dazzling array of motion that creates a triumphant tour de force. Ruscha explored the imperial, careening ship motif in the late 1980s, the first of which, Ghost Ship, now resides in the permanent collection at the Whitney. This emotive and intelligent work is the only example which combines this powerful image with a quintessentially “Ruscha” phrase.
Ruscha lifted the phrase from the 1948 Western film The Paleface, where Bob Hope turns to Jane Russell during an attack by Indians and exclaims the phrase while promptly fleeing the scene. The inversion of the phrase to the action is a theme often explored by Ruscha, who appreciates the ability of words to recall divergent meaning. Here, Ruscha matches the word to the image, conjuring the archetype of man confronting the limitless horizon with his historic, heroic ship that battles into the wind. Ruscha’s work from this period is seen by many as a metaphor for the decline of American society, which started with brave discovery of a new world and now feared set adrift on the sea of uncertainty. As with the satirical undertones of the original phrase, Ruscha riffs on the archetype of traditional masculine values, imbuing his works with freshness and agile wit (D. Cameron, Edward Ruscha: Paintings, London, 1990, pp.13-4).
Compositionally speaking, Brave Men Run in My Family builds upon Ruscha’s 1983 painting of the same title, a saturated scene in punchy blue and white oils, re-interpreted here as a negative in shadowy earth-tones. The smudged outlines afforded by the dry pigment adds to the phantasmal effect, softening the imposing ship and creating tension between the ship’s hardware and the effervescent background. The same motif was later depicted as a mural on the walls of the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, appropriately located across from the International Cruise Ship Terminal, once again demonstrating the liveliness of these works in communicating with the world around us.

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