If Ed Ruscha's name is unfamiliar, you're in extensive company. Since 2015, Google searches for obsolete mimeographs have outpaced those for the Catholic-born octogenarian, whom museums practically venerate, from the London Tate to Los Angeles' Broad. For those who extol price tags, a 1964 Ruscha oil painting sold in Nov. 2019 for nearly $52.5 million.
If you've reached the Museum of Modern Art's 404 error page, you've seen Ruscha's "OOF"
(1962) — blocky, yellow letters against a deep blue field. Everyone
understands the word "oof," though it's nonsensical, according to
independent scholar and curator Alexandra Schwartz, who finds the work
amusing. "It sums up how he takes verbal language and turns it into
something visual in a way that you don't expect," she said.
The unexpected emerges also in the Oklahoma Contemporary show Schwartz co-curated, "Ed Ruscha: OKLA" (running Feb. 18 to July 5, 2021), Ruscha's first solo exhibit in the state where he grew up. Most exhibits about Ruscha ("roo-SHAY") center on his adopted home, since 1956, of Los Angeles, so mining Oklahoma's impact on him is rarer. Exceptions include the University of Oklahoma Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art's "OK/LA" (through March 7, 2021), and "Out of Oklahoma: Contemporary Artists from Ruscha to Andoe" (2007-08) at the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art and the Bartlesville, Oklahoma-based Price Tower Arts Center, within the only skyscraper Frank Lloyd Wright made.
Additional Ed Ruscha: OKLA coverage:
Homeward Bound: This February Ed Ruscha examines his roots
6 must-see art exhibits showing in OKC in the first half of 2021
On the Town: Artist explores roots in upcoming exhibit
The Journal Record
Image: Ed Ruscha, Figure It On Out, 2007. Acrylic on canvas 60 x 60 in. © Ed Ruscha. Courtesy of Ed Ruscha Studio