ARTIST ROOMS Ed Ruscha: Landscapes

Edward Ruscha, ‘Pay Nothing Until April’ 2003
Edward Ruscha
Pay Nothing Until April 2003
Tate / National Galleries of Scotland
© Ed Ruscha

‘It’s not a celebration of nature. I’m not trying to show beauty. It’s more like I’m painting ideas of ideas of mountains. The concept came to me as a logical extension of the landscapes that i’ve been painting for a while – horizontal landscapes, flatlands, the landscape I grew up in. Mountains like this were only ever a dream to me; they meant Canada or Colorado.’

At the end of the twentieth century and beginning of the twenty-first century Ed Ruscha continued to appropriate images of landscapes though his metro plots his and mountain paintings. His metro plots are ariel views of metropolitan areas defined by intersecting parallel lines of the grid system or by actual written names of Los Angeles streets and avenues. These works such as BLVD.-AVE.-ST. 2006 bring together various concerns that have appeared in Ruscha’s work throughout the previous decades such as the photographic books of the 1960s that document subjects found along Los Angeles streets.

Plotting, mapping, identifying and labelling are among the most prominent themes in Ruscha’s work. With the metro plot series Ruscha began to elaborate on the axial-aerial perspective that he first introduced in his gasoline station paintings of 1962. Ruscha once said: ‘I guess I’ve always been intrigued by oblique perspectives, like ariel views. There’s something about the tabletop…taking a viewer up in the air, so you can look down from an angle.’ Around the same time as he began to make his metro plots Ruscha was also appropriating a backdrop unrelated to LA – bold and colourful mountain ranges. Some of these works superimposed words and phrases, such as ‘Pay Nothing Until April’ and ‘Daily Planet’, over the mountain landscape. The relationship between the text and the landscape is more elusive in these works.

The phrase ‘Pay Nothing Until April’ in the painting of the same name, overlaying the mountainous landscape, could refer to advertising slogans that follow the formula, ‘Buy Now, Pay Nothing until April’.

Create an artwork using stencils and maps of your town or city. Think about what kind of aesthetic you want to achieve and achieve and what materials will help with this.

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Ed Ruscha’s metro plot paintings such as BLVD.-AVE.-ST. 2006 can be related to the work of Agnes Martin whose work is characterised by a geometric foundation of simple times and bands of subtle colour often inspired by the landscape of New Mexico, where she lived.