Every Building on the Sunset Strip

Edward Ruscha American

Not on view

Early in the development of both Minimal and Conceptual art, the linguistic phrase as instruction or directive became paramount: the idea was primary and its execution could be by anyone who followed directions. This paradigm displaced the role of the artist from a kind of benighted savage to cool producer, and no artist commented more sharply on this new "informational" style than the West Coast painter Ed Ruscha, whose Pop-inflected canvases were often of resonant or humorous words such as Flash or Oof rendered in cartoonish yet formally precise typefaces floating on monochromatic backgrounds.
Ruscha's books are similarly head-scratching fulfillments of their titles. First came Twentysix Gasoline Stations (1962), as blank as an instructional manual and offering a serial Warholian accounting of the most flatfooted-looking snapshots of banal roadside filling stations imaginable. The photographs were not the art, and it was not a luxurious livre d'artiste. Its meaning lay somewhere in the puzzled response of the reader thumbing through it and the circuitous, even futile route that it took through the culture. As Ruscha himself kidded, "My books end up in the trash." Every Building on the Sunset Strip (a detail of its 25 foot long span seen here, in its plexiglas exhibition case) is–like a row of bricks placed on the floor by sculptor Carl Andre–a model of "one thing after another" Minimalism as well as a readymade chance arrangement (the strip itself) of the artist's beloved vernacular architectural eyesores.

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