Born in 1937 in Nebraska, Ed Ruscha was raised in Oklahoma City and moved to Los Angeles to study graphic design in 1956. After graduating he worked for advertising agencies, where he honed the skills of design, scale, abstraction and viewpoint which were integral to his art in later life.
Ruscha first came to prominence in the late 1950s, initially making small collages similar to those of Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg. He then began to refine these works by isolating and recombining words and images in increasingly subtle and unique ways.
Ed Ruscha is widely regarded as one of the most important conceptual artists in the world. He has worked in the media of painting, printmaking, drawing, photography and film.
His experimentation of blending imagery with conceptual art tropes has paved the way for word art to enter the public consciousness. In his iconic word paintings of the 1960s Ruscha explored the fluidity of language: block letters and bright colours encourage the viewer to verbalise the visual, and the meaning of the words are skewed by opposing concepts and abstract phrases.
He has created more than a dozen artists’ books which have been highly influential within the conceptual art movement worldwide. The first, ‘Twenty-Six Gasoline Stations’ (1963), consists of a series of photographs taken by the artist on the Route 66 from Los Angeles to Oklahoma City, leading themes of structure, serial imagery and the mundane.