Thursday, August 26, 2010

"Ed Ruscha's Los Angeles" by Alexandra Schwartz

Ed Ruscha, The End, 1991

I have been engrossed in this book for the last few weeks. Normally it would take far less time to read it but it's on the back burner with all the school work that needs to be completed. Last night around 2:45 AM, I read this passage:

Nine Swimming Pools and a Broken Glass presents a series of photographs of swimming pools and their decks, rounded out by a surreal image of a shattered drinking glass on the final page of the book. The only one of Ruscha’s architectural books to be shot in color, its photographs show the pools as a deep azure. Cool, placid, and inviting, they symbolize the California dream of which this artist has so often spoken.

“The truth, however, is that these pools were located at various cheap Las Vegas motels, not glamorous Beverly Hills estates, and on closer examination, one notices the muddy footprints on one deck, the cracks in the concrete, the ragged plants around the edges. Ruscha’s visual sleight-of-hand suggests an ambivalence about the Southern California lifestyle: that its allure, may ultimately, be a deception. Yet at the same time, these low-rent resorts speak to the notion that fantasies of sun and surf are available to everyone, from motel patrons paddling around in those run-down but beautifully blue swimming pools, to multimillionaire movie stars who have the real thing in their backyards.”

Schwartz has written a fascinating account of the influence of Southern California on Ruscha's artwork and new details are cropping up that I was unaware of (i.e. the fact that these were cheap Las Vegas motels and so on). His symbiotic relationship with Dennis Hopper, the origin of his last name (originally Rusiska) and the pseudonym he used as an art director for Artforum (Eddie Russia) have all been noteworthy details. I am now plowing through the section on the
"Ferus Stud" - how could you not love a title like that?

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