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Ed Ruscha, Installation view, Azteca/Azteca in Decline

Ed Ruscha, Installation view, Azteca/Azteca in Decline (2007), acrylic on canvas [Portland Art Museum, Portland OR, Jun 14-Sep 21]

Ed Ruscha

Portland Art Museum
Portland OR – June 14–Sept 21, 2008

Ed Ruscha has an impressive International and National exhibition history dating from when he was first associated with the Pop Art movement of the early 1960s. In 2005 he represented the United States at the Venice Biennale, and has been the subject of numerous retrospectives. With a distinctly West Coast aesthetic, Ruscha is known for his graphic visual word plays and his architectural commentaries on the Los Angeles landscape. His conceptual innovation and refinement of iconography from popular culture is unprecedented in our time.

For this exhibition, Ruscha re-interprets a Mexican roadside wall on mural-size canvases. The diptych Azteca and Azteca in Decline continues Ruscha’s interest in exploring historical relationships. The rough walls are painted in a trompe l’oeil manner, complete with holes, weather marks and graffiti.

Ambiguous shapes in red, green and blue are set against a white wall. In a piece that reflects the wall’s degradation, the forms are folded over and are detaching from the peeling and chipped background. Ruscha cleverly repeats the same graffiti tag mark in both pieces, as if the wall were re-tagged after the bannerlike forms had fallen.

Two other smaller sets of work are featured in this exhibition. A relief diptych entitled New Wood, Old Wood (2007) similarly portrays the tangible effects of age on physical matter. Ruscha’s signature “word” paintings are represented by Spread (1973), a two-part piece illustrating a reflection of the word “spread” that he has executed in a mix of tobacco and gunpowder. Ruscha lives and works in Los Angeles.


Allyn Cantor

 Fri, Sep 5, 2008