"Twentysix Abandoned Gasoline Stations by Jeff Brouws (published in 1992) is an exact replica of Ed Ruscha’s Twentysix Gasoline Stations, first published in 1962. Mimicking Ruscha’s format, design and type treatment, the 5½” x 7” book contains 26 black and white shots of abandoned gas stations. While the images selected bear no geographic relation to Ruscha’s original photos (it is not a re-photographic project), they do share an aesthetic sensibility in the way both artists employ a deadpan, neutral gaze.
When Brouws began his project in the early 1990s many stations were being abandoned due to the implementation of new, tougher EPA requirements mandating that aging underground tanks had to be replaced, which required a huge capital outlay. Independents gas station owners were unable to bear this cost, while larger, better-funded multi-national corporations like Chevron and Shell could afford to meet these stricter regulations. Investigative reporting in the Los Angeles Times at the time suggested that major petroleum companies conspired with the EPA to drive competition out of business with these tactics.
Brouws’ series—initially begun as a simple riff on Ruscha’s original idea and a play on words—tangentially evolved into a documentary typology reflecting this changing aspect of the commercial landscape. The two books, done thirty years apart, make visual commentary on the historical ascendancy and demise of an important element of American car culture."