LOS ANGELES, CA.-
This summer the Hammer Museum
presents Ed Ruscha: On the Road, on view through October 2, 2011. This exhibition, organized by Hammer chief curator Douglas Fogle, brings together two great visionaries of art and language - Ed Ruscha and Jack Kerouac. Both men revolutionized the transparent use of words to document and comment on the shifting character of the American cultural landscape.
In 1951, Kerouac wrote On the Road on his typewriter as a continuous 120 foot-long scroll, feverishly recording in twenty days his experiences during road trips in the U.S. and Mexico in the late 1940s. With its publication in 1957, Kerouac was acknowledged as the leading voice of the Beat Generation, a group of writers that included Alan Ginsberg and William Burroughs.
Over the last few years Ed Ruscha has continued to explore his own fascination with the shifting emblems of American life by turning his keen aesthetic sensibility to Kerouacs classic novel. Having created his own limited edition artist book version of On the Road in 2009 published by Gagosian Gallery and Steidl, and illustrated with photographs that he took, commissioned, or found, Ruscha has created an entirely new body of paintings and drawings that take their inspiration from passages in Kerouacs novel.
As Douglas Fogle suggests, It is completely fitting that Ed Ruscha would take up the challenge of looking at Kerouacs On the Road. In many ways Ruschas entire career has offered an artistic corollary to Kerouacs linguistic portrait of the American landscape, giving concrete visual form to the poetry of our vernacular roadside. These new works are no different except that they channel one of the greatest chroniclers of the American landscape by appropriating and artistically framing fragmented instances of Kerouacs language.
This exhibition consists of entirely new work, including Ruschas edition of Kerouacs legendary novel, eight large paintings on canvas, and nine drawings on museum board, each taking its text from On the Road. With this work, Ruscha creates his own psychic road trip through the pages of Kerouacs America. Whether painted over snow-capped mountains in his signature ALL CAP typography or drawn atop delicately spattered abstract backgrounds, Ruscha uses Kerouacs words to explore his own archetypal American landscape. Isolating key sentences and phrases from the novel for his paintings and drawings such as In California you chew the juice out of grapes and spit away the skin, a real luxury, the holy con man began to eat, or fit and slick as a fiddle, Ruscha adds another layer of deadpan aesthetic analysis to Kerouacs original and radical use of language.