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ED RUSCHA (b. 1937)

 
ED RUSCHA - Six Oh - oil on canvas - 24 x 30 in. ED RUSCHA - Six Oh - oil on canvas - 24 x 30 in. ED RUSCHA - Six Oh - oil on canvas - 24 x 30 in. ED RUSCHA - Six Oh - oil on canvas - 24 x 30 in. ED RUSCHA - Six Oh - oil on canvas - 24 x 30 in. ED RUSCHA - Six Oh - oil on canvas - 24 x 30 in. ED RUSCHA - Six Oh - oil on canvas - 24 x 30 in. ED RUSCHA - Six Oh - oil on canvas - 24 x 30 in. ED RUSCHA - Six Oh - oil on canvas - 24 x 30 in.
Six Oh200324 x 30 in.(60.96 x 76.2 cm) oil on canvas
Provenance
Private Collection, Beverly Hills,California
Literature
Edward Ruscha Catalogue Raisonne of the Paintings, Volume Six, pg. 365
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“I’m interested in glorifying something that we in the world would say doesn’t deserve being glorified. Something that’s forgotten, focused on as though it were some sort of sacred object.” – Ed Ruscha

History

Since the 1960s, after graduating from Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles, Nebraska-born Ed Ruscha quickly became an iconic American artist known for his enigmatic works featuring glib words and phrases in combination with color field backgrounds and the iconography of place. In addition to his intermedia explorations in photography, artist books, and film, the artist is admired for textual paintings and prints that teasingly withhold meaning and seek tension. These paintings interrogate dichotic relationships between spoken and visual language, sign and referent — slippery interplays presented in deadpan imagery edged with wry humor. After graduating from Chouinard in 1960, Ruscha embarked on a series of images in which the form of the word floats tantalizingly free of its content. This loosening allowed him to plumb words for their expressive foothold in our minds and poetic potential in their graphic and auditory attributes.

Ruscha considers himself an artist inspired by Americana just as much as the cultural climate of Southern California. He is an artist of America’s roadways, both the highways stretching across the country and the freeways and boulevards slithering through Los Angeles, flanked by signs. Familiar vistas and tropes derived from the film industry feature prominently in Ruscha’s work. The mountain in his Mountain Series plays upon the Paramount Pictures logo and white words emblazoned over mountain ranges as in Evolution Revolution (2013) or Fruit-Metrecal Hollywood (1971) recall the Hollywood sign upon Mount Lee. In the mid-80s, Ruscha’s silhouettes gesture to film language, particularly the visuality of film noir. The concoction of lettering like billboards or poster billings and imagery bespoke to Los Angeles compels connection-reaching in kind: anything large scale evokes the cinematic and words recall titles and subtitles.

More
  • ruscha-essay3
    “Ed Ruscha in His Studio, Venice, California, June 27” (2005), Gelatin silver print, 40 x 60 in. Laura Wilson.
  • ruscha-essay2
    Ed Ruscha, “Suspension” (1971), oil on canvas, 16 x 20 in.
  • ruscha-essay1
    Ed Ruscha, “Standard Station” (1966), seven-color screenprint, 26 ¼ x 40 ¼ in. LACMA’s collection includes more than 300 works by Ruscha.
“When you’re on a highway, viewing the western U.S. with the mountains and the flatness and the desert and all that, it’s very much like my paintings.” – Ed Ruscha

MARKET INSIGHTS

  • RUSCHA_AMR_1976-WEB
  • Ruscha is among the most expensive living artists, achieving prices at auction comparable to David Hockney, Jeff Koons, and Gerhard Richter. The record for a Ruscha painting at auction was set in November 2019 when Hurting the Word Radio #2 (1964) sold for nearly $53 million.
  • The graph prepared by Art Market Research shows that since 1976, paintings by Ruscha have increased at a 9.4% annual rate of return.
  • Word paintings, such as Six Oh, are Ruscha’s most sought-after subject matter: lettering with cultural, colloquial or consumerist meanings set against expertly-handled pigment.

Top Results at Auction

"Hurting the Word Radio #2" (1964), oil on canvas, 59.1 x 55.2 in. Sold at Christie’s New York: November 2019 for $52,485,000 USD.
“Hurting the Word Radio #2” (1964), oil on canvas, 59.1 x 55.2 in. Sold at Christie’s New York: November 2019 for $52,485,000 USD.
"Smash" (1963), oil on canvas, 71.7 x 67 in. Sold at Christie’s New York: November 2014 for $30,405,000 USD.
“Smash” (1963), oil on canvas, 71.7 x 67 in. Sold at Christie’s New York: November 2014 for $30,405,000 USD.
"Annie" (1962), oil and graphite on canvas, 71.3 x 66.7 in. Sold at Christie’s New York: July 2020, for $22,975,000 USD.
“Annie” (1962), oil and graphite on canvas, 71.3 x 66.7 in. Sold at Christie’s New York: July 2020, for $22,975,000 USD.
"I tried to Forget to Remember" (1986), oil and acrylic on canvas, 72 x 96 in. Sold at Sotheby’s New York: May 2019, for $8,237,000 USD
“I tried to Forget to Remember” (1986), oil and acrylic on canvas, 72 x 96 in. Sold at Sotheby’s New York: May 2019, for $8,237,000 USD

Comparable Paintings Sold at Auction

"An Invasion of Privacy" (1973), grass stain on canvas, 54 3/8 x 59 7/8 in. Sold at Christie’s New York: October 6, 2020, for $3,150,000 USD.
“An Invasion of Privacy” (1973), grass stain on canvas, 54 3/8 x 59 7/8 in. Sold at Christie’s New York: October 6, 2020, for $3,150,000 USD.
  • Earlier painting
  • Twice the size of Six Oh, but in muted color
"City, with Marbles" (1969), oil on canvas, 20 x 24 in. Sold at Christie’s New York: October 7, 2020, for $2,670,000 USD.
“City, with Marbles” (1969), oil on canvas, 20 x 24 in. Sold at Christie’s New York: October 7, 2020, for $2,670,000 USD.
  • Earlier paintings are generally more valuable
  • Smaller than Six Oh with similar color application
"President" (1972), oil on canvas, 20 x 24 in. Sold at Sotheby’s Hong Kong: October 6, 2020, for $1,302,797 USD
“President” (1972), oil on canvas, 20 x 24 in. Sold at Sotheby’s Hong Kong: October 6, 2020, for $1,302,797 USD
  • Earlier paintings achieve higher prices
  • Identical in text application, but yellow is the worst-performing color for art
"Pneumatic Muscles Hydraulic Smiles" (2010), acrylic on canvas, 26 x 31 in. Sold at Christie’s New York: November 15, 2018, for $756,500 USD
“Pneumatic Muscles Hydraulic Smiles” (2010), acrylic on canvas, 26 x 31 in. Sold at Christie’s New York: November 15, 2018, for $756,500 USD
  • Comparable to Six Oh in size and period
  • May have gone higher with more color, or had the sale taken place after Ruscha set his $52M record the following year

Paintings in Museum Collections

"Never Odd or Even" (2001), acrylic on canvas, 64 x 72 in. The Broad, Los Angeles
“Never Odd or Even” (2001), acrylic on canvas, 64 x 72 in. The Broad, Los Angeles
"Pay Nothing Until April" (2003), acrylic paint on canvas, 60 x 60 in. Tate Modern, London
“Pay Nothing Until April” (2003), acrylic paint on canvas, 60 x 60 in. Tate Modern, London
"Swank" (2001), spray-applied acrylic and dry pigment on board, 36 ¼ x 56 1/8 in. The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
“Swank” (2001), spray-applied acrylic and dry pigment on board, 36 ¼ x 56 1/8 in. The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
"Hollywood is a Verb" (1983), dry pigment on paper, 29 x 23 in. The Museum of Modern Art, New York
“Hollywood is a Verb” (1983), dry pigment on paper, 29 x 23 in. The Museum of Modern Art, New York

Image Gallery

Additional Resources

Read – The Gallery That Launched the L.A. ‘Cool School’ – NPR Art and Design
Watch – Interview with Ed Ruscha explaining the significance of his “Word” paintings and their history in context
Read – Ed Ruscha Still Has Plenty More to Say About America – Vanity Fair

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