Art Book Show

Ed Ruscha Books & Co.


Mar. 5th – Apr. 27th 2013

I want to be the Henry Ford of book making.
—Ed Ruscha

Gagosian is pleased to present an exhibition of Ed Ruscha’s legendary artist’s books together with books and works of art by more than a hundred contemporary artists that respond directly and diversely to Ruscha’s original project. Organized by Bob Monk, Ed Ruscha Books & Co. has been drawn from private collections, including Ruscha’s own. Most of the books are installed so that viewers can interact with them and browse their pages.

Inspired by the unassuming books that he found on street stalls during a trip to Europe, in 1962 Ruscha published his first artist’s book, Twentysix Gasoline Stations, under his own imprint, National Excelsior Press. A slim, cheaply produced volume, then priced at $3.50, Twentysix Gasoline Stations did exactly what its title suggests, reproducing twenty-six photographs of gasoline stations next to captions indicating their brand and location. All of the stations were on Route 66, the road mythologized by the eponymous TV series and in John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. Ruscha’s book traveled more or less west to east, from the first service station in Los Angeles, where he moved as a young man, back to Oklahoma City, where he grew up.

Initially, the book received a poor reception, rejected by the Library of Congress for its “unorthodox form and supposed lack of information.” However, during the ’60s it acquired cult status, and by the ’80s it was hailed as one of the first truly modern artist’s books. Ruscha followed up Twentysix Gasoline Stations (1962) with a succession of kindred publications, including Some Los Angeles Apartments (1965), Nine Swimming Pools and a Broken Glass (1968), and Real Estate Opportunities (1970), all of which combined the literalness of early California Ppop art with a deadpan photographic aesthetic informed by Minimalist sequence and seriality.

As the prolific and playful examples in the exhibition attest, Ruscha’s artist’s books have proved to be deeply influential, beginning with Bruce Nauman’s Burning Small Fires (1968), for which Nauman burned Ruscha’s Various Small Fires and Milk (1964) and photographed the process. More than forty years later, photographer Charles Johnstone relocated Ruscha’s Twentysix Gasoline Stations in Cuba, producing the portfolio Twentysix Havana Gasoline Stations (2008). The most recent homage is One Swimming Pool (2013) by Dutch artist Elisabeth Tonnard, who re-photographed one of the photographs from Ruscha’s Nine Swimming Pools and a Broken Glass (1968) and enlarged it to the size of a small swimming pool, consisting of 3,164 pages the same size as the pages in Ruscha’s original book. The pages of this “pool on a shelf” can be detached to create a life-size installation. Between these early and recent examples are a wealth of responses to Ruscha’s ideas by artists from all over the world, gathered here in this celebratory exhibition.

Organizer Bob Monk
Address New York, United States of America

Participating Artists

Participating Artists

1 edition on edcat featured in this art book show

Art Ephemera
Ed Ruscha by Ed Ruscha, VV.AA.

367 editions by participating artists and publishers on edcat

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