Oklahoma Contemporary

Media Release

Oklahoma Contemporary presents major survey exhibition of Ed Ruscha, exploring the artist’s lifelong connection to Oklahoma

January 05, 2021
Drawing of a book cover that says Twentysix Gasoline Stations in red text on a white background

Contact: Lori Brooks | 405 951 0000 | lbrooks@okcontemp.org
Media kit: bit.ly/OC_Ruschakit

Ed Ruscha: OKLA — the artist’s first solo exhibition in his home state — will present Ruscha’s work across media

Ruscha Oklahoma E 1962 web res

This spring, Oklahoma Contemporary will present Ed Ruscha: OKLA, the first solo exhibition of work by Ed Ruscha in the artist’s home state and home town, and the second major exhibition in Oklahoma Contemporary’s new building. The exhibition will run from Feb. 18 through July 5, 2021.

Featuring objects spanning the artist’s 60+ year career that explore his relationship to Oklahoma, Ed Ruscha: OKLA will present iconic pieces such as Twentysix Gasoline Stations and Chocolate Room alongside newer, lesser-known bodies of work, including two recent Drum Skins paintings. The exhibition will include 70+ works across media, ranging from paintings and a large-scale installation to drawings, prints, books, photos and film. Ed Ruscha: OKLA is both the first solo exhibition of the artist’s work presented in the city of his childhood, and the first ever to explore the influence Oklahoma has had in forming the artist’s aesthetic sensibility.

“The mythos of Ed Ruscha is tied to Americana and the open road, both of which are rooted in his childhood here,” said Artistic Director Jeremiah Matthew Davis. “We’re excited to share this landmark exhibition with our visitors, and hope the programs created by our incredible educational and curatorial teams can leverage Ruscha’s work to inspire the next generation of artists in Oklahoma. We are thrilled to be working closely with Ed Ruscha and his studio to bring this important facet of his work to light, and to do so in the state’s first survey of his iconic artworks. Hopefully, Ed Ruscha: OKLA will help to broaden the public’s awareness of Oklahoma’s significant influence on Ruscha’s work throughout his storied career.”

Oklahoma looms large in Ruscha’s work, as a source of inspiration and as a foundation on which his unique perspective on America was first formed. In 1956, he embarked on the first of many road trips — to which he would frequently make reference in his art — from Oklahoma to Los Angeles to begin his artistic career. Ruscha has repeatedly been quoted in the years since saying everything he’s done was already part of him when he left Oklahoma at 18. Ed Ruscha: OKLA is the first exhibition to examine the ways in which the visual culture and language of his upbringing provided ongoing inspiration throughout his artistic career.

The exhibition will be structured around five themes that are central to Ruscha’s life and work, and signify his connection to Oklahoma.

The exhibition is co-curated by Alexandra Schwartz, a New York-based independent curator who has written extensively about Ruscha's work, and Oklahoma Contemporary in close coordination with the artist and his studio.

“Ed Ruscha: OKLA is the first exhibition to examine Ruscha’s work within the context of his formative years in Oklahoma,” Schwartz said. “While historically his work has always been closely associated with Los Angeles, his artistic sensibility was shaped by his midwestern upbringing. This exhibition traces the roots of his art in Oklahoma and the American heartland.”

More information and high-resolution images can be found in the media kit at bit.ly/OC_Ruschakit. Interviews can be organized through Lori Brooks (lbrooks@okcontemp.org).Past press releases and information are archived at okcontemp.org.

About Oklahoma Contemporary
Oklahoma Contemporary is a multidisciplinary contemporary arts organization, providing a catalyst for the exploration of creativity and contemporary art through a program of groundbreaking exhibitions, performances and educational programs. Developed by and for Oklahomans to present and explore the key innovations, issues and concerns of the art of our time, Oklahoma Contemporary does so while drawing on the dynamic aesthetic, cultural, historical and political landscape of the state. At its core, the institution is an inclusive space — Oklahoma Contemporary believes that art is for everyone and places accessibility and education at the center of all programming. Exhibitions are always free, and everyone is welcome. Oklahoma Contemporary is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization founded in 1989 by businessman and philanthropist Christian Keesee and Kirkpatrick Foundation Director Marilyn Myers.

Ed Ruscha: OKLA is the second exhibition in Oklahoma Contemporary’s new downtown location. After a delayed opening due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the campus is now fully operational and open, with limited timed-ticket access, to all. Designed by Rand Elliott Architects, the new building features a luminous facade that captures Oklahoma’s ever-changing weather and light. The grounds also include a renovated historic warehouse (housing ceramics and fiber studios and metal and wood sculpture studios) and a three-block arts park, providing space for outdoor exhibitions, education programs and public performances.

Images: Ed Ruscha, Twentysix Gasoline Stations from Book Covers, 1970. Ed Ruscha, Oklahoma E, 1962. UBS Art Collection © Ed Ruscha. Courtesy of the artist and Gagosian

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