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Ed Ruscha and Photography

March 1, 2008–June 1, 2008

Since the beginning of Ed Ruscha’s career in the late 1950s, photography has been both an inspiration and a source of discovery for this seminal Pop and Conceptual artist. This exhibition, organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art, features over 100 photographs and his signature photographic books.

Photographs from an early trip to Europe are central to the exhibition, since they cemented Ruscha’s inventive approach to typography and signage. These early pictures fostered a strong graphic sensibility and bold playfulness, qualities that continue to inform his work today. Ruscha’s influence can be found in the practices of photographers such as Andreas Gursky and Jeff Wall and in the work of noted architect Robert Venturi.

Also on view are Ruscha’s celebrated “conceptual” books. These witty volumes group thematic photographs of banal and everyday things into intriguing arrangements. Thirtyfour Parking Lots and Twentysix Gasoline Stations represent pivotal achievements in Ruscha’s career as well as in the history of American contemporary art. These books and 13 others will be on view in the exhibition.To complement the Chicago presentation of Ed Ruscha and Photography, paintings, drawings, and prints from the museum’s outstanding holdings and from local private collections are also on display. These works bring to the fore the key motifs that course throughout Ruscha’s practice and confirm the centrality of his work to the Pop and Conceptual art movements of the 1960s and 1970s.

On opening day of the exhibition, the Art Institute hosted a symposium, also titled Ed Ruscha and Photography. Ed Ruscha began the symposium with an artist’s talk. A conversation with cultural critic Dave Hickey and exhibition curator Sylvia Wolf, as well as lectures by art history professors Thomas Crow and Ken Allan, completed the day.


This exhibition was organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.


Sylvia Wolf, adjunct curator, Whitney Museum of American Art. In Chicago, the exhibition is coordinated by Katherine Bussard, assistant curator of photography.


Macy's is the Lead Corporate Sponsor.
Mr. and Mrs. Alan Press are the Sponsors of this exhibition. Additional support is provided by Joyce Chelberg, Jay and Gretchen Jordan, and the President's Exhibition and Acquisition Fund.

Edward Ruscha. Phillips 66, Flagstaff, Arizona, 1962. From Twentysix Gasoline Stations, 1963. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. © Ed Ruscha.