The Ed Shopping List - New York • the tribute of MoMA to Ruscha

October 11, 2023

200 artworks trace his peculiar artistic career

Ketchup, syrup, tobacco, coffee, egg white, chili sauce, beer, mustard, cheddar cheese, gunpowder: Ed Ruscha’s shopping list is, of course, archetypal of 1960s American popular culture. Even today, in the collective imagination relaunched by the film stereotype, the west coast is easily associated with endless road trips through diners, hotels and palm trees. The artist, who lives in Los Angeles and burns the production for over six decades, swallows, digests and metabolizes the characteristic and at the same time alienating dimension in which he is immersed, returning one of the most influential productions on the American scene since the post-war period. Heterogeneous, sometimes made with unconventional materials - in fact, the shopping list - the Ruscha artworks, 200 of which are hosted until January 13 at MoMA in New York in the exhibition “Now Then”, range from photography, painting, drawing, engraving, books, films, installations, in a freedom of experimentation constantly tamed by great aesthetic sense.


The exhibition, curated by Christophe Cherix and Ana Torok, complements the most acclaimed works, such as Standard Station, Ten-Cent Western Being Torn in Half of 1964, those less known, as the covers of Artforum by him paginated when he works as a graphic designer in magazines and advertising agencies. The unmistakable writing “Hollywood” that stands on Mount Lee and the Twentieth Century Fox logo, isolated, reiterated to emphasize the centrality and opulence of the film industry, they are among the most iconic subjects together with words selected by the colloquial language, in dystopian books by JG Ballard and among onomatopoeias, ambiguously superimposed on naturalistic scenarios reminiscent of the peaks of Canada or the Californian sunsets, in a game of constant tension between sign and content. The links with Dadaism, conceptual art and pop art are evident where the celebration of beauty and the impulsive gesture give way to an impeccable and disturbing reproduction of symbols and clichés of contemporaneity, deprived of every feeling and chiseled in a rational graphic rigor that amplifies the frightening dominant power. Even petrol stations, aerial views of parking lots, apartment buildings are emptied of the human component and every mark, in a process of standardization so radical that, on the contrary, feeds its uniqueness. Ladies and gentlemen, the serpent within art, the battle of art against itself, in an attempt to break down the formal and cultural clichés of tradition, is still deeply alive.

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Freelance journalist and editorial assistant. From linguistic studies she bounces to those of engineering and arrives, through a process of kinetic liberation, to digital marketing. Performing at a gallery in Pietrasanta she meets the director of AW ArtMag in 2019 to which she binds professionally, combining the Stendhal syndrome for Boltanski to the excitment for editing. In the office, she is tête-à-tête with the PC. At home, she looks out of her window, thinking, writing and planning the next reportage.

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