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Two Great Visionaries of Art and Language: Ed Ruscha and Jack Kerouac at the Hammer Museum
In this undated photo released by the Hammer Museum, and courtesy of the Artist and Gagosian Gallery shows Ed Ruscha's painting called Manaña, 2009, Acrylic on canvas. 38 5/8 x 72 in. (98 x 183 cm). Fifty years after Jack Kerouac rolled a 120-foot scroll of paper into his typewriter and set American literature on its ear with On the Road, a melodic, stream-of-consciousness meditation on America, Ed Ruscha brings a new interpretation to the work, through paintings and photographs. Ed Ruscha: On the Road which opens at the Hammer museum in June, provides a visual translation of the words Kerouac set to paper as he criss-crossed the country in search of post-war America's soul. AP Photo/Hammer Museum.
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 Kerouac’s 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 Kerouac’s novel.

As Douglas Fogle suggests, “It is completely fitting that Ed Ruscha would take up the challenge of looking at Kerouac’s On the Road. In many ways Ruscha’s entire career has offered an artistic corollary to Kerouac’s 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 chronicler’s of the American landscape by appropriating and artistically framing fragmented instances of Kerouac’s language.”

This exhibition consists of entirely new work, including Ruscha’s edition of Kerouac’s 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 Kerouac’s America. Whether painted over snow-capped mountains in his signature ALL CAP typography or drawn atop delicately spattered abstract backgrounds, Ruscha uses Kerouac’s 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 Kerouac’s original and radical use of language.





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