Ed Ruscha – Books & Co // München

2013, Mai 29th

vingtsix3Photo: Kai-Olaf Hesse, aus dem Leporello Vingt-Six Stations Service, 2007 – vertreten in Varirous Small Books: Referencing Small Books by Ed Ruscha, MIT Press, February 2013

Museum Brandhorst Ed Ruscha Books & Co 06.06. bis 22.09. 2013 (Eröffnung 05.06. 19.00 Uhr)

Ed Ruscha, 1937 geboren, verkörpert eine spezifische Richtung der Pop Art. Nicht nur seine panoramaartigen Landschaften des amerikanischen Westens und seine Wort-Bilder machten ihn bekannt, sondern auch seine Bücher. Der Künstler selbst produzierte, verlegte und vertrieb die schmalen Bände. Sie enthalten außer Titeln und Ortsangaben meist nur eine Folge von Schwarz-Weiß-Fotos. Den Anfang machten 1962 Twentysix Gasoline Stations, die Ruscha  am Highway 66 zwischen Oklahoma und Los Angeles aufgenommen hatte. Es folgten Various Small Fires (1964), Some Los Angeles Apartments (1965), Every Building on the Sunset Strip (1966) usw.
Obwohl sich Ruschas Bücher keiner der gängigen Gattungen wie Dokumentation, Reportage oder Kunstbuch zuordnen lassen, war ihre Resonanz ganz außerordentlich. Vor allem im Rahmen der Appropriation Art (einer Kunst der Aneignung) avancierte der Künstler zur bewunderten Leitfigur. Das spiegelt sich in einer Fülle von Künstlerbüchern wieder. Das Spektrum reicht von persiflierender Nachahmung und ironischer Ausweitung der Sujets bis zur Kopie von Typographie und Design. Ruschas Indifferenz und seine betonte Neutralität in der Auswahl der Themen wird allerdings bei einer jüngeren Künstlergeneration gelegentlich von der Demonstration politischen Bewusstseins und Engagements abgelöst. Dennoch bleibt die Frage, was die nachhaltige Rezeption von Ruschas epochalen Büchern motiviert hat. Eine Antwort darauf versuchen die Ausstellung und eine materialreiche Publikation zu geben.

Various Small Books: Referencing Small Books by Ed Ruscha Edited by Jeff Brouws, Wendy Burton and Hermann Zschiegner with text by Phil Taylor and an essay by Mark Rawlinson (Published by MIT Press, February 2013)

In the 1960s and 1970s, the artist Ed Ruscha created a series of small photo-conceptual artist’s books, among them Twentysix Gas Stations, Various Small Fires, Every Building on the Sunset Strip, Thirtyfour Parking Lots, Real Estate Opportunities, and A Few Palm Trees. Featuring mundane subjects photographed prosaically, with idiosyncratically deadpan titles, these „small books“ were sought after, collected, and loved by Ruscha’s fans and fellow artists. Over the past thirty years, close to 100 other small books that appropriated or paid homage to Ruscha’s have appeared throughout the world. This book collects ninety-one of these projects, showcasing the cover and sample layouts from each along with a description of the work. It also includes selections from Ruscha’s books and an appendix listing all known Ruscha book tributes.

These small books revisit, imitate, honor, and parody Ruscha in form, content, and title. Some rephotograph his subjects: Thirtyfour Parking Lots, Forty Years Later. Some offer a humorous variation: Various Unbaked Cookies (which concludes, as did Ruscha’s Various Small Fires, with a glass of milk), Twentynine Palms (twenty-nine photographs of palm-readers‘ signs). Some say something different: None of the Buildings on Sunset Strip. Some reach for a connection with Ruscha himself: 17 Parked Cars in Various Parking Lots Along Pacific Coast Highway Between My House and Ed Ruscha’s.

With his books, Ruscha expanded the artist’s field of permissible subjects, approaches, and methods. With Various Small Books, various artists pay tribute to Ed Ruscha and extend the legacy of his books.

Various Small Books features among many other artists – Kai-Olaf Hesse’s Vingt-Six Stations Service (revisitée), 2007: This beautifully photographed book opens with a striking, Lee Friedlander-like picture that tightly crops a section of a car, a monumental equestrian statue, and the Eiffel Tower in receding order. A photograph showing the iconic, supersonic Concorde airplane follows. This sequence progresses through modes of assisted transport – from horse to automobile to airplane – while the camera moves away from the tower as a symbol of industrialization. The book traces the Route Bleue from Paris to Menton, France, a roadway with strong cultural associations in some ways comparable to Route 66 in the United States. It too has been largely replaced with a major freeway. Hesse allows himself significant freedom within Ruscha’s model, eschewing typology while emphasizing the culture of the road and the thematic of movement. Indeed, numerous photos do not depict gas stations.
As the opening sequence suggests, this is a trip through historical time as well as through geographical space, revisiting a series of cultural mythologies. Service stations that are representative of the golden age of mid-century modernist gas stations are depicted, some long since closed. Like the Concorde, their aerospace-inspired designs are redolent of promising new frontiers for exploration and discovery.
That such opportunities seem foreclosed to our present age is manifested in the metaphoric significance of Hesse’s strategy of framing compositions: walls, fences, barriers, wires and other visual elements repeatedly interrupt the viewer’s ability to obtain an unobstructed view. (From the book)

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