This work will be included in the forthcoming Ed Ruscha catalogue raisonné.
As one of the most celebrated artists of Pop Art, Ed Ruscha has continued his exploration and eventual transformation of ready-made imagery. By taking the ordinary and almost banal images of everyday objects, he elevates the status of these objects and in turn, creates compelling paintings filled with mysteriously beguiling fragments of what is known and familiar to the viewer. In the 1990s, Ruscha took on images from cinematic sources. Coupled with a new painting technique involving an air gun, these haunting images such as ships, wagon trains and clocks striking a singular resonance in his oeuvre .
Time Ago is a wonderful example of Ruscha's "silhouette paintings." The shadows of the numbers on the clock emanate mystery and intrigue, no doubt heightened by the forceful cropping of the numbers. "The overall effect of these silhouette paintings is of nostalgia and memory. Unlike the widescreen works of the 1970s and early 1980s, the silhouette paintings refer back to classic Hollywood cinema, to film noir and the Western, to a bygone era" (K. Brougher, "Words as Landscape," Ed Ruscha, exh. cat., Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C., 2000, p. 173). This painting is evocative of Hitchcock films, especially of Spellbound in which the set design for a key dream sequence was designed by Salvador Dali.
This painting is related to a 1989 painting Five Past Eleven in the collection of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, where a portion of a clock face is shown juxtaposed by a reedy bamboo pole. When asked about the clock imagery, Ruscha answered, "I've skirted the issue of time before in my work, such as in the hourglass silhouettes and clock face paintings and drawings. I think the combination of forms in these works has a lot to do with abstract art. It's going back to the use of the circle and the diagonal. If someone wants to say the painting is dream-like, I won't argue with them. There is a heavy grayness and seriousness about the work" (E. Ruscha, interview with Bonnie Clearwater, originally published in French, "Edward Ruscha: Quand les mots deviennent formes," Art Press, 137, June 1989, pp. 20-25; reprinted in E. Ruscha, Leave Any Information At the Signal: Writings, Interviews, Bits and Pages, Boston, 2002, pp. 293-294).