By Michael Webb
Various Small Books: Referencing Various Small Books by Ed Ruscha. Phil Taylor. (The MIT Press, $39.95); Ed Ruscha’s Los Angeles. Alexandra Schwartz (The MIT Press, $29.95); Ed Ruscha and Some Los Angeles Apartments. Virginia Heckert (J. Paul Getty Museum, $24.95).
David Hockney defined the light and color of southern California, as Matisse did for the Côte d’Azure, but Ed Ruscha is the quintessential LA artist. Like most keen observers of the local scene, Ruscha is an immigrant (from Nebraska and Oklahoma) who drove to LA in 1956 and stayed on. In those six decades he has addressed the urban landscape, and created iconic images of the Hollywood sign, the 20th Century Fox logo, gas stations, commercial strips, and the geometry of city boulevards. The man and his art are perfectly matched: laconic, deadpan, infused with irony. The simplicity of his paintings and prints is deceptive; Ruscha is a true original and a master of his craft.