Thursday, November 25, 2010

Books, Baseball Cards, & Fido

The portions of the essay below are from A.D. Coleman’s “I’m Not Really a Photographer” first published in the NY Times, 10 September 1972. [This was one of Coleman's essays I helped edit in his bibliography as a grad student - I was in charge of attributing the correct information to all the photographs in his articles.]

Ed Ruscha with his books, c. 1969 courtesy of Gagosian Gallery, LA

“It’s a playground, is all it is,” says Ed Ruscha. “Photography’s just a playground for me. I’m not a photographer at all.”

"Despite this disclaimer, Ruscha’s fourteen small books of photographs have found much of their audience among people interested in contemporary photography. They were among the first of the new wave of privately published photography books; they also pioneered in the use of photography as a basic tool of conceptual art. Quite aside from their historical significance, these books have a consistency and a charmingly mystifying ambiguity which results from their very literalness…."

“I just barely got my feet wet with gas stations…then I just had a lot of other things come out. Fires have been a part of my work before too, I’ve painted pictures of fire, and there’ve been little things about fire in my life – not experience, not in a negative way, there’s been no catastrophe as far as fire goes, but the image of fire has always been strong in my work and so it just culminated in this little book here [Various Small Fires, which contains sixteen images – burning pipes, cigars, cigarettes, a flare, a cigarette lighter aflame]. It’s probably one of the strangest books – it kind of stands apart, a lot of people have even mentioned to me about how it stands apart from the others because it’s more introverted, I guess; introverted, less appealing, probably more meaningless than any of the other books, if you know what I mean.”

From Ed Ruscha's Various Small Fires, 1964

“I mention finding, in a Fourth Avenue used-book store, a copy of a catalog from one of his exhibitions, the cover of which was charred by fire. ‘Charred by fire?’ Ruscha laughs. ‘Everything gets its due, right? Bruce Nauman took a copy of Various Small Fires and burned it ceremoniously, took a picture of each page, and made a big book out of it, which is an extension of that. I think he liked Various Small Fires."

Bruce Nauman, Burning Small Fires, 1968

*** ****

At the same time I read the above essay, I was paging through an Aperture magazine and reacquainted myself with Mike Mandel's The Baseball Photographer's Trading Cards from 1975. Interesting how Ed Ruscha became a "photographer" for this series.

Then there's Ruscha's latest nonphotographic project below (selling for a mere $27,450). More here.

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