Oklahoma Contemporary
© Ed Ruscha. Photo: Trayson Conner
Wide view of an art gallery space with multiple paintings and prints hanging on walls throughout

New Light

Feb. 25, 2021

Oklahoma Pop

Go deep on Ed Ruscha's home state roots with tonight's virtual Thursday Night Late panel discussion
Three people sit on a panel discussion, two who are physically present in the theater space and another who is attending virtually on a large vertical screen
Tonight's panel discussion on Ed Ruscha's Oklahoma roots kicks off at 7 p.m. CST on Facebook, YouTube or at okcontemp.org.

Want to learn more about Oklahoma's influence on contemporary art icon Ed Ruscha? Whether you've already experienced the showstopper Ed Ruscha: OKLA or you haven't yet ordered your free, limited access timed tickets, you won't want to miss tonight's illuminating Thursday Night Late discussion on the home state roots of the legendary artist. Moderated by Oklahoma History Center Deputy Director Jeff Briley, the upcoming conversation between Oklahoma Contemporary Artistic Director Jeremiah Matthew Davis and Ed Ruscha: OKLA co-curator Alexandra Schwartz is sure to be can't-miss viewing for anyone looking to learn more about how Ruscha's Oklahoma upbringing influenced his trademark aesthetic sensibility.

Tonight's discussion will shed light on how the visual culture and language of Ruscha’s formative years in Oklahoma have served as sources of inspiration throughout his decades’ long artistic career. "The exhibition is structured around the idea that Ruscha has never really been discussed within the context of his childhood in Oklahoma City. He's lived in Los Angeles since he started art school at the age of 18, and he's become very much associated with L.A. in the popular imagination," Schwartz said. "But in fact, his Oklahoma roots are a huge part of his work — from the imagery he chooses to his sense of language, which he talks about being very much an Oklahoma vernacular or slang. So we are thrilled to be examining that in this exhibition."

"We all associate him with Los Angeles and 'California Cool,' and for good reason. But that belies the true origins of Ed Ruscha. He is not from Los Angeles — he's from someplace else. And that someplace is here in Oklahoma City."

— Jeremiah Matthew Davis, Oklahoma Contemporary Artistic Director
An artistic rendering of the letter E in a meticulous serif font, including sketches of the words Oklahoma and Comic within the letter itself
Oklahoma-E (1962) by Ed Ruscha features drawings of comic strips from The Oklahoman newspaper.

Viewers from all backgrounds will leave tonight's virtual broadcast with a better understanding of how this influence plays out in the works of Ruscha — but like the exhibition itself, the conversation is sure to be an especially rich experience for Oklahomans. "There's a resonance and a quality, particularly to the vernacular and use of light, that I think will be apparent to people who grew up here or live here as they encounter works in the exhibition," Davis said. "I think it helps us provide further context, art historically, to the influences of the artist. For the last 60 years he's been so indelibly tied to Los Angeles, which is absolutely true. But that belies his biography, which is to say he's not from L.A. He's from Oklahoma."

From more obvious connections like Oklahoma-E (1962) — featuring drawings of comic strips from The Oklahoman newspaper, which Ruscha delivered throughout Oklahoma City as a teenager — to the prairie roots of L.A.-centric projects like Every Building on the Sunset Strip (1966), which grew from the artist's desire to map the root system of Oklahoma City, tonight's panel discussion will have you seeing the legendary artist in a whole new light. Before you tune in at 7 p.m. CST on Facebook, YouTube or at okcontemp.org, check out a video tour of Ed Ruscha: OKLA with Davis to learn more about this historic exhibition at your new arts center in downtown OKC.


Ed Ruscha: OKLA, on view at Oklahoma Contemporary. ©Ed Ruscha. Photo by Trayson Conner.

Ed Ruscha. Oklahoma E, 1962. Pencil, colored pencil, charcoal on tracing paper. 17 x 14 in. UBS Art Collection ©Ed Ruscha. Courtesy of the artist and Gagosian.

Tags tags
Ed Ruscha Ed Ruscha: OKLA Thursday Night Late public progams Jeremiah Matthew Davis Alexandra Schwartz Jeff Briley Oklahoma History Center Exhibitions

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