ed ruscha lecture @ national gallery of art 2/13/05
notes towards almost timely art blogging.
Ruscha drolly commented on slides of his own work and work that’s inspired him.
some names are approx.
A slide of what looked like a chrome sphere on a stick was projected on the screen while we waited. Ruscha began his talk from that slide, which after the lights dimmed he id’d as the gearshift of a 1950 Ford. Contrast that with the next slide, the gearshift of a 1950 chevy – a knobbier shape painted off-white, that doesn’t strike him the way the ford does. Either pic could be considered boring (Rushca’s one of the inspirations for my foray into boring photography) but at the macro level they’re practically abstracts.
A bottle of higgins india ink. He admired it as much for the bottle design as for the versatile substance inside it: good for fine lines, dripped into blotches, poured on so thick it cracks, etc.
Spike Jones. Ruscha was a gofer for Jones and his City Slickers when they’d come through Oklahoma. They might send him to buy a dozen eggs, which he’d bring back for Spike and Co. to hurl at each other.
Arthur Dove’s 1925 abstract Goin Fishin.
Kurt Schwitters (one gripe I have with the new Moma is that some walls are hung so densely that a Schwitters collage is placed at eye-level to a giant)
A dada ink drawring by Johnannes Barguild. Ruscha admired the mystery of it – that there was no answer to the questions posed: is it a musical score? bugs at the gate? this drawring inspired his own bugs at the gate, in the form of automobile parking lot lines (a theme he’d pick up again in his photographic studies of parking lot oil stains and sundry).
Jasper Johns flag 1958 (Ruscha is a distinctly American artist, and many of his signposts, from auto design to the 20th Century Fox logo to word drawings like BABYCAKES, are very American).
Walker Evans, cars parked on a residential street. (When I saw the Ruscha and photography show at the Whitney last year, it occured to me that Ruscha was the source of banal, deadpan photography, but the lines seem to come from Walker Evans, and maybe Atget before him). For Ruscha, Evans’s pictures are completed by the viewer’s sensual experience, adding sound and smell (which distinguishes him from some of his odorless successors).
Edgerton’s picture of a bullet going thru an apple. Made for scientific purposes but also = art.
Imperial war museum object: a bedpost? Bertelli’s “Endless Mussolini.” It “broke the sound barrier for me.”
ANVIL! “It’s American,” a theme he brings up again. “It’s what people ask you to carry upstairs. Endless Dumbo.”
Ali by Kersh – American hero.
Clark Beyers “Barnyard Rembrandt” – painted advertisements on roofs. “never passed up a good roof.”
Marilyn Reese – designed clover leaf interchange.
Lichetenstein sneakers. Showed a “total disrespect for aesthetics.” “it was repulsive, then appealing, then profound – it made a convert out of me.”
word paintings: BOSS HONK OOF ICE
“Course of Empire” Thos. Cole, a series of paintings that charted the rise and fall of a civilization, marked by the same mountain peak in the distance; reminds me of a sequence of drawings in CRUMB where the artist traced the devolution of a country lane into succesive layers of “progress” that ended in a horribly homogenous (yet darkly beautiful) array of chain stores and telephone wire.
zoom of fox logo as train photography: standard gas — > zoom painting, lower left to upper right diagonal.
1850 Millet’s Ophelia–> LA museum on fire: tragedy in serene setting. as opposed to Guernica, all tragedy (he didn’t denigrate Picasso but that hit on why I find that the more Picasso I see the more he annoys me)
Urich – Withdrawal from Dunkirk?
clinical “little military figures … frozen in an landscape: ENGINEER SURGICAL HYDRAULIC
broken glass – a 2-d taxidermy
organic paintings – stained moray and satin
SHE DIDN’T HAVE TO DO THAT (blood on satin)
’39 ford=elephant climbing up hill fuzziness, out of focus
AN EXHIBITION OF GASOLINE POWERED ENGINES: the light comes through a window at such a hard angle it “slams like a pound of bacon.”
mountain backdrops: BLAST CURTAIN, PORCH CROP (palindromes)
paintings of ideas of things rather than things themselves.
CLARENCE JONES 1906-1987 REALLY KNEW HOW TO SHARPEN KNIVES (from dream)
redesigned US currency. Andrew Jackson’s face was one of historical dignity; now he looks like he could be somebody “babbling on his cellphone in starbucks”
the perfect face of contentment: Mr. Maple.