Ed Ruscha - Back of Hollywood, 1977 - Courtesy Collection of Musée d’art contemporain de Lyon © Ed Ruscha 2009. Photo: Paul Ruscha.

LONDON.- This autumn, the Hayward Gallery presents a major retrospective of Ed Ruscha’s paintings, in celebration of his 50-year career. Ed Ruscha (b. 1937) is widely regarded as one of the world’s most influential artists at work today and this exhibition traces the development of his paintings across five decades, from his contributions to Pop Art in the early 1960s to his paintings comprising words and phrases and his explorations of iconic American landscapes. Curated by Ralph Rugoff, the Director of the Hayward Gallery, the retrospective opens on October 14 to January 10, 2010 and will then travel to Haus der Kunst in Munich (February 12 – May 2, 2010) and Moderna Museet in Stockholm (May 29 – September 5, 2010).

Ed Ruscha - Annie, 1962 Private Collection, © Ed Ruscha 2009Based in Los Angeles since the late 1950s, Ed Ruscha is recognized for his pioneering work in a variety of media, including painting, print-making, artist’s books, photography and film. His influence on painting has been particularly significant and this exhibition reveals the wit and ceaseless experimentation that have distinguished his contributions to this medium. Over the course of his career, Ruscha has influenced cultural figures as diverse as artists Richard Prince and Anselm Kiefer, architect Robert Venturi and photographers Andreas Gursky and Jeff Wall. Presenting a total of 78 works on canvas, "Ed Ruscha: Fifty Years of Painting" is the largest UK survey yet of Ruscha’s output as a painter.

The exhibition reveal’s the full depth and breadth of his achievements, from his use of graphic design and filmic devices to his experimentation with unusual materials and formats. Many of the paintings in the show have never before been seen in the UK and have been lent by both public and private collections from around the world.

Ralph Rugoff, Director of the Hayward Gallery and curator of this exhibition, said: ‘Ed Ruscha is widely celebrated for the visual elegance and wit of his paintings, and this exhibition also reveals his insistently experimental approach to the medium as well as his charged takes on the contemporary cultural landscape. Whether trafficking in ambiguity and absurdity or scanning signs of social decay and decline, his paintings address us in ways that are at once playful and profoundly disorienting, and they remain as provocative today as they first did half a century ago.’

Words and phrases, set against a colored background or landscape, are at the center of Ruscha’s work, conjuring up a world of associations, at once playful and profound. The exhibition charts Ruscha’s ongoing interest in imaginatively exploring language as the subject of a non-verbal art form, from his early use of single words divorced of any meaning or context, to his ‘liquid word’ paintings – words seemingly poured rather than painted – and later, whole phrases, painted bold and authoritatively, yet often enigmatic in their meaning. Key word-based paintings featured in the exhibition include "Oof" (1962-63), "Boss" (1961), "Hurting the Word Radio # 2" (1964), and "Sand in the Vaseline" (1974).

Edward Ruscha (American, born 1937) - Standard Station (E. 5), 1966 - Screen-print in colors on commercial buff paper, signed in pencil, dated and numbered 33/50 (and 2 artist's proofs), 19 3/4 x 37 in.. sheet 25 5/8 x 40 in. Courtesy of Bonhams & Butterfields.

Besides engaging with written language, Ruscha’s paintings have recorded the shifting emblems of American life, in particular the vernacular of Southern California, in the form of classic Hollywood logos, stylized petrol stations and suburban landscapes. Often echoing the size of Cinemascope movie screens and billboards, these works constitute a shrewd and incisive portrait of American culture. Ruscha has produced some of the most memorable works of American art, including "Standard Station" (1966), "Annie" (1962), and "Trademark with Eight Spotlights" (1962), all of which are on display.

Visit the Hayward Gallery at : http://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/find/visual-arts

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Pause For Thought

Brancusi on Essence

"What is real is not the external form, but the essence of things . . . it is impossible for anyone to express anything essentially real by imitating its exterior surface."