Ed Ruscha: OKLA
Feb. 18-July 5, 2021
Eleanor Kirkpatrick Main Gallery
Watch a video tour or a conversation with Ruscha
Iconic American artist Ed Ruscha has, over the past six decades, produced a diverse and highly influential body of work encompassing paintings, drawings, prints, books, photographs and films. The Western United States is a primary subject for his work, from his frequent evocations of the Los Angeles urban landscape to his meditations on the open road. Lore has likewise developed about his life, from his having heeded the call to “Go West, young man,” moving to California in the 1950s, to his current status as the unofficial artist laureate of Los Angeles. Yet such narratives overlook a crucial fact of Ruscha’s biography: that he went West to L.A. from someplace else, and that place was Oklahoma City, where he grew up. Ruscha’s Los Angeles is not that of a native Angeleno but of a transplant, an observer of the city who, even after all these years, retains traces of the outsider looking in. Ruscha’s Oklahoma is his place of origin.
Ed Ruscha: OKLA was the first exhibition to focus on the artist’s Oklahoma roots — his family, his upbringing and his discovery of his calling as an artist. It was also, remarkably, his first solo museum exhibition in his home state. Ruscha lived in Oklahoma City from the ages of 5 to 18: the formative years of both his life and his artistic sensibility. His Midwestern childhood had a profound impact on his art, which the exhibition explored through 74 works from all phases of his career, organized into five interrelated thematic sections:
- Oklahoma OK included works related to his childhood home.
- 51% Angel, 49% Devil cast light on his Catholic upbringing.
- Pop Origins focused on the popular culture of his youth, including movies, comic strips, slang and advertising.
- Route 66 chronicled his observations about driving, car culture and the myths of the road.
- Made in U.S.A. examined his views of American history, identity and industry.
The exhibition was co-curated by Alexandra Schwartz, a New York-based independent curator who has written extensively about Ruscha's work, and Oklahoma Contemporary in close coordination with the artist and his studio.
Through engaging displays and iPad interaction stations, visitors to our Learning Gallery discovered the importance of travel and our city to Ruscha. Hands-on art stations allowed visitors to explore his most celebrated art forms -- word paintings and artist’s books. Guests could also use the library, which included a curated selection of books and videos for all ages about themes from the exhibition.
Ed Ruscha: OKLA was supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts. To find out more about how National Endowment for the Arts grants impact individuals and communities, visit www.arts.gov.
The exhibition was also supported by the Ad Astra Foundation, Gagosian and Annie Bohanon with additional support from Drew Williamson - UBS Private Wealth Management, Katie McClendon, Ed Barth and Northwest Classen High School (Class of '56).
Images: Installation view of Ed Ruscha: OKLA. Photo by Alex Marks. Ed Ruscha, Mocha Standard, 1969. Screenprint. 24 7/8 x 40 in. Ed. 64/100. Collection of Jordan D. Schnitzer. © Ed Ruscha. Photo courtesy Ed Ruscha Studio. Ed Ruscha, Spam Study, 1961-1962. Oil on canvas. 3 3/8 x 3 ¾ in. UBS Art Collection. © Ed Ruscha. Photo courtesy Ed Ruscha Studio. Ed Ruscha, Twentysix Gasoline Stations from Book Covers, 1970. Lithograph on paper. 16 1/8 x 20 3/16 in. UBS Art Collection © Ed Ruscha. Courtesy of the artist and Gagosian. Portrait of Ed Ruscha by Grant Delvin for Interview Magazine.