Metropolitain is one of Ruscha's first letter paintings, painted in his Paris hotel room from sketches of the ubiquitous signsfor its city subway system. Here, he has taken a word from a recognizable pop-culture source, which is ironically, for Parisians, an element of everyday life and, for foreigners and particularly Americans, a symbol of French culture. These earliest works are indebted to Magritte and his iconic C'est n'est pas une pipe, which boldly presents the incongruous relation between painted image and meaning. In Ruscha's early works, which also include Boulangerie, he has taken this observation one step further, abandoning the representational image completely, and instead contrasting the significance of the written word with the formal process of painting it onto the paper. The brushstrokes of the blunt orange ground are tangible and sensual as they move around the acid green letters, heightening the decorative effect of the artist's use of a familiar logo and at the same time emphasizing the ironic relationship between image and meaning.