ARTIST ROOMS Ed Ruscha: Hollywood

Edward Ruscha, ‘Miracle #64’ 1975
Edward Ruscha
Miracle #64 1975
Tate / National Galleries of Scotland
© Ed Ruscha

‘I looked outside my window here and I saw the sign ‘Hollywood’ and it became the subject matter for me.’

Ed Ruscha has lived and worked in Los Angeles since 1956 and since then his visual vocabulary has been hugely informed by the city and its film industry. Ruscha references Hollywood and cinema in a number of ways in his work. In PAY NOTHING UNTIL APRIL 2003 the words juxtaposed against a mountainous landscape allude to the opening credits in an action adventure film while words such as ‘Hollywood’ (in works such as Hollywood 1969) and symbols such as the Twentieth Century Fox logo (in works such as Trademark #5 1962) appeared in Ruscha’s work from the 1960s.

The dimensions of Dec. 30th 2005 call to mind the format of widescreen movies; Ruscha had previously replicated the ratio of the widescreen Cinemascope in the size of several canvases. The Hollywood sign, an iconic feature of the Los Angeles skyline, is silhouetted and blurred with orange and red spray paint. The colours and the shaded sign suggest a sunset or blazing white heat. Ruscha has exploited the sign as a monument to the town’s myths and dreams in his work since the late-1960s.

Ruscha also created a series of works such as Miracle #64 1975, where a bright beam of light entering a black space, which allude to a film being project in a cinema. Ruscha once commented, “‘Hollywood dreams’ – I mean, think about it. Close your eyes and what does it mean, visually? It means a ray of light, actually, to me, rather than a success story.” Movies are also referenced in The End series, which illustrate the words with imagery that recalls fading film credits (THE END #40 2003). Works such as Miracle #64 and The Final End 1992 allude to Hollywood success as a near religious experience.

Ruscha’s book Every Building on Sunset Strip 1966 also references the cinematic; the photographs for this book were created by attaching a camera to a moving vehicle and shooting in real time.

Discussion
We associate certain visual styles with different genres of film e.g. western, thriller, science fiction or romantic comedy. Discuss how you might decide what a film might be like based on the style of the opening credits or title.

Activity
Use some of the key words or a catchphrase from the credits, poster or trailer from your favourite movie to create an artwork. Think about what the film might be like or whether or not you want to create a visual representation of the film.

Artist Link
Douglas Gordon references Hollywood film and film stars in a number of works including 100 Blind Stars 2002 where he appropriated images of Hollywood film stars exercising the eyes, thus creating a ‘blind’ portrait.