Edward Joseph Ruscha IV was born on 16 December 1937, in Omaha, Nebraska. He grew up in Oklahoma City but moved to Los Angeles in 1956, having graduated from high school. He attended the Chouinard Art Institute until 1960, where he trained as a commercial illustrator. Ruscha’s early work was graphic but he has expanded his production to encompass drawing, paintings, photography, prints and artist books over the course of his career thus far.
During the 1960s and 1970s, Ruscha produced numerous photographic books – his first was Twentysix Gasoline Stations, 1963. The books focussed on the banality of life in Los Angeles and the West Coast of America, presenting images of culturally-specific everyday subjects, such as swimming pools, palm trees or the buildings on Sunset Boulevard. Ruscha also began his series of ‘word’ paintings in the 1960s, which utilised his background in commercial design to produce paintings that straddled concepts of high and low art. The series of works, which he still returns to, explore the fluidity of language and meaning, incorporating elements of graphic type, trompe l’oeil and landscape. In the 1970s, Ruscha began to explore alternative media in his paintings and printwork, including gunpowder, vinyl, blood, axel grease and various foodstuffs.
Ruscha had his first solo exhibition at the Ferus Gallery, Los Angeles, in 1963. He also had important solo shows at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London (1976); Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (1988); Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (1990); and the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles (1998). He was the subject of major retrospectives at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (1983); Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2004); National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. (2005); and the Hayward Gallery, London (2009). In 2005, Ruscha represented the US at the LI Venice Biennale. He continues to live and work in Los Angeles.
Ruscha’s work can be found in the following selected international collections: the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Art Institute of Chicago; National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMoMA); Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA); the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; The Broad, Los Angeles; Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena; Museo Nazionale delle Arti del XXI secolo (MAXXI), Rome; the Tate Collection, London.