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Blank Book

A work made of graphite, with frisket and stumping, on cream wove paper.
© 1963 Ed Ruscha.

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  • A work made of graphite, with frisket and stumping, on cream wove paper.




Ed Ruscha
American, born 1937

About this artwork

Ed Ruscha is credited with inventing the idiom of the quickly printed artist’s book when he published Twentysix Gasoline Stations in 1963. Conceived as a solo project that he conceptualized, designed, and published, it afforded him the chance to collect focused sequences of images that have since become iconic chronicles of the American vernacular.

As Ruscha has explained, “If there is any facet of my work that I feel was kissed by angels, I’d say it was my books. My other work is definitely tied to a tradition, but I’ve never followed any tradition in my books. The books are a neuter gender, and that’s what I like about them. That’s why I feel so free when I do them. They’re the easiest things to do, and sometimes the best. I like the idea of spending $2,000 on something that’s totally frivolous and spontaneous. When I start on one of these books, I get to be the impresario of the thing, I get to be majordomo. I get to be creator and total proprietor of the whole works, and I like that. It’s nice. And I’m not biting my nails over whether the book is going to hit the charts or not.”

Drawing has also been central to Ruscha’s work. Moreover, his dedication to craftsmanship regardless of medium is legendary. Blank Book refers to but does not copy a sequence of photographs that he made of his hand holding his first book (see Hand Showing Book Cover (2011.60), for example). This drawing differs from the photographs in many ways. Ruscha depicted the book blank, without lettering, rendering the sheet in graphite with a wide range of values to convey the object faithfully. And yet both the lighting and the space are impossible, which serves to underscore the monumentality of the book as a form, despite its modest size. In the drawing, Ruscha eliminated the photographic content and turned the book into an object without a specific meaning yet rich with enough allusions to suggest an object of devotion, such as a Bible.


On loan


Prints and Drawings


Ed Ruscha


Blank Book


United States (Artist's nationality:)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.



Graphite, with frisket and stumping, on cream wove paper


Signed and dated lower right corner, in graphite: "E. Ruscha 1963"


30.5 × 23.3 cm (12 1/16 × 9 3/16 in.)

Credit Line

Adele and Willard Gidwitz Endowment

Reference Number



© 1963 Ed Ruscha.

Extended information about this artwork

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