The work of the Los Angeles-based artist Ed Ruscha, recognised as the embodiment of West Coast Pop, has not yet been grasped in its full significance. His unique portfolio stands like a monolith in America's contemporary art scene and flits between folk, conceptual and Pop Art, in the tradition of Edward Hopper's melancholia, Marcel Duchamp's readymades and James Deans "laconic smart looks".
"I have a deep need to make a book. It doesn't matter what it is about. The idea for a book comes first."
Ruscha is known for art that often manipulates words and phrases in unconventional ways. Ruscha's art is deeply influenced by his love of books and language, as reflected by his frequent use of palindromes, unusual word pairings and rhyme. He has often combined the cityscape of Los Angeles with vernacular language, and his early work as a graphic artist continues to strongly influence his aesthetic and thematic approach. Ed Ruscha’s Twentysix Gasoline Stations, a thin paperback that resembles an industrial manual of the 1960s, is often considered to be the first modern artist’s book. The book is exactly what the title describes: 26 images of gasoline stations along Route 66 between Los Angeles and Oklahoma City.
Various Small Books
Library of Congress originally rejected Twentysix Gasoline Stations because of it's "unorthodox form and lack of information". Ruscha took an ad out in Artforum, offering copies of the book for $3.00. The advertisement itself now sells for a hundred times that amount, and the book (a second printing, no less) sells for a thousand times the original cover price. My pictures are not that interesting, nor the subject matter. They are simply a collection of facts; my book is more like a collection of Ready-mades.
"I take things as I find them. A lot of these things come from the noise of everyday life."
Tanks Banks Ranks Thanks
Examples of this include the publication Every Building on the Sunset Strip (1966), a book of continuous photographs of a two and one half mile stretch of the 24 mile boulevard. In 1973, following the model of Every Building on the Sunset Strip, he photographed the entire length of Hollywood Boulevard with a motorized camera. Ruscha often credited with establishing the way modern artists' books are conceived, designed and consumed.