Christmas comes early! Ed Ruscha gifts a piece of LA to the UK
Source:theguardian Author:Jonathan Jones Date: 2015-12-16 Size:
Ed Ruscha lives in Los Angeles, a city so vast its edges are unimaginable when you’re inside it, a place of space, signage……

Art that seems the most objective has the most soul … Ed Ruscha, That Was Then This Is Now 2014.

Ed Ruscha lives in Los Angeles, a city so vast its edges are unimaginable when you’re inside it, a place of space, signage, gas stations and fast food – a wonderland he has made his own.

As of today, a little piece of Los Angeles is now British territory. Ruscha has given Tate Modern an early Christmas present by promising to donate one copy of every print he makes for the rest of his life to its collection. When this generous flow of future works is added to the outstanding sampling of Ruscha already gifted to the nation by Anthony d’Offay, the Tate and Britain will have an excellent view of this enigmatic artist.

Everything about Ruscha and his art seems to signal cool irony. The most archetypally cooled-out of his creations, and the one most often reproduced in stiff academic books on modern art, is his 1966 photobook Every Building on the Sunset Strip. Like a souvenir panorama that might have been published 100 years ago, this artist’s book unfolds to reveal a vast urban scene – except what it shows is not Rome or Manhattan but the undistinguished, almost module-built unfolding of hot dog stands, motels and stores along LA’s Sunset Strip, all bleached out under the big, empty California sky

This is the most famous in a lifetime’s production of books and prints that is ongoing, which is why Ruscha’s Tate gift is so special. His 2014 print Dead End, for instance, imitates a forgotten sign in a dusty city street, like a message from a civilisation that collapsed long ago. It is part of a series called Rusty Signs.

The earthquake, the aliens, whatever is coming, has sent out advance clues in Ruscha’s art

And this is where Ruscha’s art gets really strange. It may look laconic, even flip, at first glance, but this urban art is full of apocalyptic forebodings. Los Angeles often appears to be on the brink of destruction or – as in Rusty Signs – already wiped out. The earthquake, the aliens, whatever is coming has sent out advance clues in Ruscha’s art. Among his eeriest paintings are depictions of buildings on fire. The Los Angeles County Museum on Fire imagines a modern arts complex going up in smoke. His series of pictures of a Standard gas station include a vision of red flames pouring out of it.

Ruscha’s style is precise, calm, uninflected – almost like architectural drawings – and yet flames leap into the LA night. The worlds he deploys with such apparent nonchalance keep turning into the writing on the wall that foretells the fall of Babylon. His 1966 painting Annie, Poured from Maple Syrup looks to me like a bizarre translation of the golden writing in Rembrandt’s visionary painting Belshazzar’s Feast. Golden signs that glow on the wall – one divine and one made from gooey syrup.

Art that wears its heart on its sleeve is boring. It is often the art that seems most objective, most chilled-out and urbane that has the most soul. Ruscha loves, hates and wants to save Los Angeles. One of his gifts to the Tate to start his new relationship with the museum is a print called Angel 2014, which he made to benefit a food charity called Project Angel Food. LA is the city of angels. It’s easy to forget that.

[Editor] 张艳

    Artintern