Ed Ruscha's Sauce is an early example of his fascination with the graphic appearance of written words, rather than their implied meanings. The painting draws its inspiration from Ruscha's somewhat removed way of looking at the world, as if he were looking through the window of a passing car, a perspective further influenced by the sign-scattered landscapes of Midwest America. Desperate to escape the provincialism of his hometown in Oklahoma, Ruscha hit the road Jack Kerouac style in 1956, driving his souped-up 1950 Ford down the legendary Route 66 westwards to settle in Los Angeles. The romance of this journey would have a profound influence on Ruscha's art. The unreality of the endlessly flat and featureless landscape, the vast, empty skies, punctuated only by passing advertising billboards and gas station signs, would, over time, come to form the basis of his deceptively simple word paintings. Attracted to the look of printed words and the confluence between art and communication, Ruscha pursued his interest in the visual pleasures of typography during a period when artists internationally were beginning to re-evaluate the significance of commercial imagery from popular culture. Sauce is a painting from a signature series of the late 1960s, in which Ruscha began to disassociate his work from direct commercial references or narrative possibilities, and began to isolate single words in a generic typeface to create a sense of timeless neutrality. Floating over a carefully modulated, undefined space like the opening sequence of a film, the word 'sauce' occupies the painting like an object, becoming a title, an image and a plastic element all in one. The scale of the chosen word replicates the disjunctive appearance of a distant sign on a lonely desert highway, with lettering so widely spaced that it forces the viewer to traverse the expanse of the picture plane from one side of the canvas to the other as if scanning a horizon. For Ruscha, the literal meaning of the word takes a backseat to its graphic appearance and suggested sound. Words have a synaesthetic quality, they are not only concepts, they are shapes, they are 'pattern-like,' Ruscha explains, 'and in their horizontality they answer my investigation into landscape. They're almost not words - they are objects that become words' (Ruscha, quoted in R. D. Marshall, Ed Ruscha, London 2003, p. 106).