Ed Ruscha: Course of Empire

Yale University Press

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Christopher Riopelle, Tom Mccarthy & Daniel Herrmann

Hardcover |  31.5 x 1.02 x 25.15 cm | 48 pp

Yale University Press | 2018 | 9781857096323

Over the span of his six-decade career, Ed Ruscha (b. 1937) has created a distinctively stylised vision of the modern American landscape of gas stations, highways, and industrial buildings. Incorporating text, stark typography, and commercial logos, the artist’s multivalent images both portray and interrogate the contemporary world’s relentlessly packaged environment.

By placing Ruscha’s celebrated Course of Empire―a ten-painting installation originally created for the 2005 Venice Biennale―in dialogue with Thomas Cole’s five-picture cycle The Course of Empire from the 1830s, this catalogue offers a fresh perspective on each of these disparate masterpieces. Unlike Cole’s grandiose vision of the rise and fall of classical civilisation, Ruscha’s work comprises five black-and-white Los Angeles landscapes made in 1992 paired with colour representations of the same sites as they appeared ten years later and draws attention to how often-overlooked changes in the evolving urban landscape are redolent of economic might and globalisation or decline and stagnation.


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