In this lavish monograph, Marshall wastes no time making the familiar Pop Art connections between Ed Ruscha and his 1960s contemporaries; thumbnails of work by Roy Lichtenstein, Jasper Johns and Andy Warhol precede full-page reproductions of Felix the Cat, the Twentieth Century Fox trademark and a flying can of Spam. In uninflected, jargon-free prose, the former Whitney curator traces the artist’s early trajectory from art school training to Abstract Expressionist experimentation to his full stride with iconic West Coast landscapes-the Hollywood sign, a Standard gasoline station-starkly rendered in popping color, hard edges, thrusting diagonals and vanishing horizons. Organized by subject matter, the volume quickly moves beyond 60s Pop, though Marshall continues to look backward, citing influences from René Magritte to Walker Evans. As later chapters explore “Single Words,” “Bouncing Objects, Floating Things,” “Thought and Phrases” and “Landscapes and Skies,” a definite artistic agenda emerges. Whether in a limited edition book devoted to 34 parking lots, an oil painting of olives falling against a gradated background, or a pastel of the word “sex,” Ruscha seeks to isolate objects-especially words-from their context; “Words are pattern-like… they are almost not words-they are objects that become words.” Including a list of the nearly 400 words used over a period of 13 years, this monograph offers a comprehensive examination of a quintessentially American artist. 324 color illustrations
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