This work will be included in the forthcoming Catalogue Raisonné: Edward Ruscha Works on Paper 1958-2004, edited by Rainer Crone and Petrus Graf Schaesberg as number D1986.27.
In 1956, Ed Ruscha made his now legendary drive on Route 66 from his home town in Oklahoma to Los Angeles. On his journey across America, he absorbed the flavor of the small towns, their remote gas stations, buildings, signage, the cowboy conversation and the expansive landscape. The ethos and the imagery of the wide open west would fuel one of the most innovative careers of our time. Pioneering the use of text as art, Ruscha appropriates words and images from his life - conversations overheard, text found on a sign or in print, images from his long look at America on Route 66 and from Southern California's laid back lifestyle and eccentric movie culture.
In the present example, Ruscha has substituted censor strips for the words of the title, Brave Men. The image of the listing tall ship and the words Brave Men Run in My Family is an image and text that he first used in the monumental painting of the same title in 1983 exhibited at Leo Castelli Gallery in the same year. The text belongs to the artist's Dysfunctional Family Series that came about while Ruscha was watching the 1948 comedy/western Pale Face. In the film, Bob Hope turns to Jane Russsell as they are being attacked by Indians and exclaims, "Brave men run in my family!" and flees the scene. Ruscha implies his text in a witty bit of self-censorship with fill-in-the-blank strips running over the heroic silhouetted image of the ship, which is itself running before the wind. The present work anticipates Ruscha's monumental mural of the same text and image at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, completed in 1996.