Monday, 10 May 2010

Ed Ruscha

Union, Needles, California


Dated 1962 in the foreword and dedicated to Patty Callahan, the book comprises twenty-six photographs of various different dimensions and proportions; most are laid out on a single page with the text facing the image; some go across the double spread, a few are placed next to each other. Three images are taken at night, including one of Tucumcari, New Mexico, that appears to have been taken from a moving car. But for three people walking across the forecourt on the Sunset Strip, a man getting out of his car at Flagstaff, Arizona and a man looking under his hood at Lipton, Arizona, there are no people present. There aren't even any cars visible in some of the photos. Almost all of the photos are taken from the other side of the highway.

All of the gasoline stations are on Route 66, a road that had already been mythologized by the TV series Route 66 and in Steinbeck's The Grapes Of Wrath, and later reappeared as a motif in Dennis Hopper's Easy Rider. The order that the stations appear is almost the same as their position on the route west-east, with five stations moved out of order. With the exception of the last station in Groom, Texas, the relevant states listed are all in order.

"I have eliminated all text from my books- I want absolutely neutral material. 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 readymades." ED RUSCHA

Originally, the book was received poorly; despite being published the same year as Ruscha's first exhibition at the Ferus Gallery, Los Angeles-which also represented Andy Warhol- the book was rejected by the Library of Congress for its 'unorthodox form and supposed lack of information'. The book gradually acquired cult status through the sixties, and by the eighties was often being hailed as the first modern artist's book although in fact Dieter Roth's artist's books share the same mass produced aesthetic and investigate the nature of books with at least as much formal vigour, and predate Ruscha's first publication by 7 years. Additionally, Warja Lavater's first book, William Tell (New York : Junior Council, Museum of Modern Art, 1962 (OCLC 10911288), an accordion folded book written using symbols only, preceded Ruscha's Twentysix Gasoline Stations.

An original signed copy of Twentysix Gasoline Stations is now worth up to $35,000

'Standard Station' 1966. Screenprint, composition: 19 5/8 x 36 15/16" (49.6 x 93.8 cm)

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