- Edward Ruscha born 1937
- Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper
- Image: 255 × 255 mm
- ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland
- Presented by the artist to Tate for ARTIST ROOMS 2015
This is one of six black and white photographs entitled RoofTop View 50 Years Later by the American artist Ed Ruscha (Tate P20508–13). Each one is a view of the suburban streets of Los Angeles seen from a high vantage point. They make up a part of a larger group of sixteen photographs in Tate’s collection by Ruscha printed between 2011 and 2014 (Tate P20501–17), six of which are from negatives produced in the 1960s (Tate P20503, P20505, P20507, P20515–17). Printed in a range of sizes and editions, they are drawn from different bodies of work and reveal the diversity of the artist’s practice in photography over the last fifty years, as well as his ongoing exploration of quintessentially American subject matter including signage and the locale of his hometown of Los Angeles. The prints dated from 2013 onwards have been produced specifically for Tate and are inscribed by hand with the words ‘Tate Proof’.
While perhaps not the best-known element of Ruscha’s practice, photography has played a crucial role in the artist’s development, influencing his painting, drawing and printmaking. The medium appealed to the artist from an early age: ‘I began to shoot pictures while I was in school, but not on a serious basis. I liked the idea that it could capture the here and now, an immediate reality that could then be appraised and put back into a painting.’ (Quoted in Jeu de Paume 2006, p.12.) As the title suggests, however, these photographs relate to a body of work produced in the early 1960s entitled Roof Top Views (Tate AL00235–8), a project that represented a more focussed engagement with the medium of photography unconnected with other works. This earlier series recorded the neighbourhood surrounding the advertising agency between North Flores Street and Beverly Boulevard where the artist worked following his graduation in 1961, from the position of the roof where he took his lunch break. For the RoofTop View 50 Years Later project, Ruscha returned to the same position to capture the same views half a century later.
Capturing the same outlook, they reveal the subtle changes to buildings, vehicles and industry that had occurred during the fifty-year period. Taken with exactly the same composition and crop (compare Rooftop View 50 Years Later #3 2012, Tate P20510, and Residential (Rooftops Series #1) 1961, printed 2004, Tate AL00235) they affirm Ruscha’s continuing, almost forensic engagement with deliberately mundane subject material and systematic approach to recording information. This theme is perhaps demonstrated most prominently by his photobook projects such as Twentysix Gasoline Stations (Tate AL00229), in which he systematically recorded petrol stations along the Route 66 highway between Los Angeles and his parents’ home in Oklahoma City. They also reveal the artist’s interest in revisiting subject matter as well as his ongoing preoccupation with the locale of his hometown. The decision to recreate previous photographs after a significant period of time is also explored in Self-Portrait of my Forearm – 1960 1960, printed 2013 (Tate P20503), and Self Portrait of my Forearm – 2014 2014 (Tate P20506).
Ed Ruscha: Photographer, exhibition catalogue, Jeu de Paume, Paris 2006.
Mary Richards, Ed Ruscha, London 2008.
Ed Ruscha: Fifty Years of Painting, exhibition catalogue, Hayward Gallery, London 2009.
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