This work will be included in the forthcoming Ed Ruscha catalogue raisonné and is currently registered under archive number P1987.18.
Ed Ruscha's paintings have always been influenced by his adopted hometown of Los Angeles and the film industry. He has said, "Like everyone else I'm a frustrated film director" (quoted in N. Benezra and K. Brougher, Ed Ruscha, Washington, D.C., 2000, p. 171) Name___ is particularly cinematic. It exudes drama, mystery and suspense.
Name___ invokes Film Noir through its palette, perspective and subject. Depicted in this painting is a typical suburban development. One house after the other is shown to be exactly like the previous one. This is a painting of the Post-War "American Dream," but in Ruscha's rendition something is awry.
The three houses in the painting are presented on a sharp angle. This is a device that Ruscha has employed throughout his career appearing in such early masterworks as Standard Station, Amarillo Texas, 1963. The genesis of this device comes from spotlights, which make frequent appearances in Ruscha's early work and are a staple in Hollywood with their monumental but vacant announcement of something to come.
Ruscha's text "Name___" gives insight into exactly might be wrong and why Ruscha is alerting us to some imminent danger. The spaces after "Name" are a blank to be filled in and imply that anybody's name could be inserted here. The suburbs, often denounced as soulless, might just be what Ruscha seems to be pointing out. You can be "Smith," "Jones" or "Taylor" but it does not matter. There is nothing individual about the realm you are entering.
Name___ is not a reformer's outcry against suburbia, but instead a slight ribbing. Ruscha is poking fun at the "American Dream" by depicting its reality through a dark lens.
Edward Hopper, House by the Railroad, 1925 Collection of Museum of Modern Art, New York