Gagosian presents an exhibition of new paintings by Ed Ruscha on view now through January 23, 2021 at its 541 West 24th Street location.
In these new paintings, Ruscha has chosen to revisit the flag, the mountain, and the tire. Flags
entered Ruscha’s visual vocabulary between and, rippling in the breeze over dramatic
sunsets or triumphant blue skies, offset with subtle warning cues of black bars resembling censor
The motif returned in OUR FLAG (2017)—currently on view at the Brooklyn Museum, which
served as a polling site for the November election—where it disintegrated into shreds set against a
near-black sky. The flag becomes newly distorted in RIPPLING FLAG (2020), this time abnormally
widened to extend past the right-side frame, its flowing surface creating twisted shapes and
shadows over the red and white stripes. In Top of Flag (2020), only a fraction of the standard is
visible at the bottom of the canvas, surrounded by a gradation of shadow, almost as though the flag
were a setting sun or a dimming spotlight on a stage.
In new mountain paintings, Ruscha presents one of his archetypal snowy ranges, but inverts one of
the peaks so that it appears to descend from the sky. A shredded tire tread, or “gator,” which
Ruscha first referred to in his series of Psycho Spaghetti Western paintings, hovers over a barren, redskied landscape in Hardscrabble (2020). These tire shreds also appeared in Blue Collar Tires (1992),
which formed part of the Course of Empire series, Ruscha’s contribution for the American Pavilion at
the Biennale di Venezia in. This was titled directly after Thomas Cole’s famous painting cycle
(1834–1836) depicting the same landscape over time as it is developed from its pristine natural state, to fall, finally—like Ruscha’s flags—into a state of disrepair and deterioration.
A fully illustrated catalogue, with an essay by writer Tom McCarthy, will accompany the exhibition.
Ed Ruscha was born in in Omaha, Nebraska, and lives and works in Los Angeles. His work is
collected by museums worldwide.