The Gagosian Gallery is unarguably one of the most successful contemporary art galleries of our time. The current exhibition of works by the Los Angeles-based artist Ed Ruscha gives us new reason to delve into history and understand what it takes to become a historically important artist. Ruscha seems to intuitively know which new galleries would go on to claim their place in art history, and he wants to show his work in that context. His list of exhibitions includes Ferus Gallery in 1963, Nicholas Wilder Gallery 1967, Texas Gallery 1973, MTL 1978, Galerie Rudiger Schottle 1978, and Galerie Tanja Grunert 1984. Although these galleries may not be household names, a quick check will make it clear, (considering the other artists they showed early in their careers), that these are ground breaking establishments, and they’ve all shown Ruscha.
Another thing that sets Ruscha apart from the field, he doesn’t follow trends, he sets them. Quite possibly the first artist to make work using exclusively text, (his earliest text pieces are from 1963), clearly predating Laurence Weiner, Martin Maloney and Christopher Wool. While most artists wanting art world recognition move to New York, Ruscha stayed home in LA. He along with John Baldesarri, Paul McCarthy, Bruce Nauman and a few others trusted the future of LA. He also shares with Nauman and McCarthy a restless creative spirit, producing work in all mediums available. Maybe not good for the market originally, but it’s certainly not a problem for them now.
Fast forward to the present day. For his current exhibition at Gagosian, Ruscha again heads into new territory. Unafraid to challenge his own previous ascertains, this time he picks works from his own history, and pairs them with his new version of the original. “Tool and Die”, “Tech-Chem”, and “Trade School” take on a whole new meaning when combined with fences, buildings and barbwire. The original works done in nostalgic black and white have now been updated with futuristic color. Ruscha
has said that these new combinations, “air my doubts about progress in the world and hopes for the world… They reflect my feelings about how things change, and that they don’t always change for
the better.” All this leaves us hoping for more.
Ed Ruscha, at Gogasian Gallery, London until March 20, 2008