Channelling Ed Ruscha

While waiting for the next module to begin, we have been tasked with creating a series of photographs in a small book that have been inspired by Ed Ruscha.

If you’ve not heard of Ruscha (Roo-SHAY), he is held in high esteem as an artist and the one who perhaps made the first artist book after his photographs of gas stations were rejected for publication by the Washington Library of Congress back in 1963. He took the word rejection and used it to sell his self-published book for $3 via an advert in an art magazine.

Describing his approach to this first book, Twentysix Gasoline Stations , Ruscha said: “I just wanted to explore the subject dead-head, straight-on, without much emotion,” (Phaidon 2013). I have tried to achieve a response for the viewer without inputting much of my own emotion into the images. I have taken the images “straight-on”.

fromtwentysixgasstations
From Twentysix Gasoline Stations (1962) by Ed Ruscha 

His style reminds me of work I made in Fuerteventura a few years ago. And considering his love of Los Angeles I can see why as his images conjure up the dry heat and the streets often devoid of humans – much like the area of El Cotillo. I think it is this connection that drew me to his work, A Few Palm Trees (1971).

187-2015-a-ii23g23s
From A Few Palm Trees (1971) by Ed Ruscha

For me, my subject matter is anything but lacking in emotion. If you have read my Everyday Thoughts section you will know that my dog died on May 11. Not being in the best of head spaces when this challenge was set, the only thing I could think about for a while was the loss of my dog. It was during this time that I collected up the finds that he had carried home from the beach or on his walks and that we had kept in the garden.

As Ruscha found intrigue in the everyday around him from the gas station to the palm tree and the swimming pool to the car park, these finds represent my “everyday”, the inconsequential flotsam and jetsam until something happens to make them appear more precious.

I took the images with an iPhone – Ruscha it seems did not care too much for the camera used as it was simply the tool to take the image – before converting to black and white and creating a layout in InDesign to create an interactive PDF. I aimed to upload this to Issuu, an online magazine publication site, but I need to redo the images as I haven’t taken enough care in cutting them out of the background or saved them at a high enough resolution to want to share too widely and time this week doesn’t allow for the luxury.

I chose to link the content to where it had come from or where it was left, similar to the use of location details by Ruscha. I added in longitude and latitude too to pinpoint where in the world these items are. And I had a bit of fun in the wording used too.

I’m not sure this is how I would create a photobook in future. I had wanted to make something very tactile with paper cutouts or in the style of the paper “fortune” games we made as children. Maybe next time. Maybe next time I will also be in a better headspace to feel more productive but I hope the humour and the style of my attempt provides an insight into how Ruscha’s work inspired me.

edruschaexperiment

This mini project has given me a taste of the next module where we will be focussing on the methods we use to make our work and the ways in which we share it. Time to get ready for it.

References:

PHAIDON. 2013. ‘Ed Ruscha explains his love of Gas Stations’. Available at: http://uk.phaidon.com/agenda/art/articles/2013/september/09/ed-ruscha-explains-his-love-of-gas-stations/ [accessed May 23, 2017].

Photographs:

http://uk.phaidon.com/agenda/art/articles/2013/september/09/ed-ruscha-explains-his-love-of-gas-stations/

https://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/collection/works/187.2015.a-ii/

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