Ed Ruscha on working with gunpowder:
Tag Archive: ed ruscha
Erik Bluhm: “In 1956 two young Oklahomans jumped in a 1950 Ford and, like their kin before them, headed west. Their goals and ultimate destinations may have differed, but their motivations were similar to those of young people everywhere. One of them, Edward Ruscha, hoped to study graphic design at Art Center, but had to settle for the more iconoclastic Chouinard Institute. The other, Mason Williams, had vague plans “to go to school or whatever”—”I was just along for the ride,” he admitted. Fifty years later, Ruscha would represent the U.S. at the Venice Biennale and command some of the highest prices for a living artist. Williams would go on to watch his music climb the Billboard charts and eventually win three Grammys.
“Where they differed was in motivation and practice. Where they were aligned was in origin of ideas, and how their adopted West affected them as their paths diverged and crisscrossed into distinguished careers and lives. Once in Los Angeles, Ruscha stuck to his guns, honing his graphic-oriented imagery (with detours into photography and books) to become the region’s preeminent verbal imagist. Williams, on the other hand, bounced from one medium to another, dabbling in (and at least temporarily succeeding in) everything from songwriting to television, from conceptual art to poetry. Through it all, the two never lost touch: their exchange of ideas proved vital to both their oeuvres.” — Erik Bluhm, “Along For The Ride,” excerpted at greatgodpan.com, and available in full at artext.org.
Lorraine Wild: “Williams commissioned the Los Angeles photographer Max Yavno to shoot the bus on a 4 x 5 negative; a 16 x 20 print was then sent to a company in Florida where the full-size image was divided into sixteen segments and printed onto billboard paper… It was a big challenge just to find a place to tape the sheets together — a tennis court didn’t work because the sheets kept blowing around. He finally found the upper floor of a folk club in Glendale that was just about a foot-and-a-half larger than the entire print itself; and four-and-a-half miles of double-stick tape later, he had an edition. ”
Lorraine Wild: “When Mason Williams made his edition of Bus in 1967, he didn’t stop with the production of the image as a poster: he took one more counter-intuitive step and had each gigantic poster folded down and packaged in a box. Working with two friends who found a prototype for a sort of enlarged document storage box, he had the box designed with the title “BUS” on one side, and a deadpan description of the process of producing it printed on the other side. (Including the instruction “Warning: Do Not Open in the Wind,” a tip learned the hard way by Williams.)” – www.observatory.designobserver.com
Ed Ruscha as Guest DJ with Liza Richardson on KCRW, 2011:
Liza Richardson: When you first moved here… you drove out here with a friend named Mason Williams and we’re going to play something from him. Tell me more about this.
Ed Ruscha: Yeah, well he got into writing, and playing and he was locked into the folk world, and he had been schooled in classical music and country and western music, so he kind of worked out of that, and he was writing a lot of poems at the time. He went through a little spell there where he wrote these poems, called, “Them Poems.” When I think today, they’re almost like precursors of rap and they had some flavor like that. He put these things to music, I mean like with a guitar, and they could almost be without music. They could be read like poems almost.
“All persons and events depicted herein are real. Any similarity to fictitious persons or events is purely coincidental.”
Riffing on the tradition of Italian shockumentaries like “Mondo Cane,” filmmaker Robert Carl Cohen’s “Mondo Hollywood” captures the stranger than fiction world of 1967 Los Angeles.
Cohen was a pioneering documentarian who defied the Eisenhower-Nixon Administration’s travel ban in 1957 by filming for NBC-TV in China. After filming throughout East Germany in the late 50s and early 60s he became the first American authorized by the US State Department to film in Castro’s Cuba.
In “Mondo Hollywood,” he turned his camera on his home town of Los Angeles, circa 1965-1967. Zig-zagging from the Malibu surf scene to Professor Richard Alpert (Ram Dass) in Topanga Canyon, from Christian anti-communists to the longhairs of the Sunset Strip, the film is a seminal document of the era. With cameos including everyone from Frank Zappa to Manson associate Bobby Beausoleil to Jayne Mansfield to Ronald Reagan, his film captures Los Angeles at its freakiest.
Below — a glimpse of beach culture and the Sunset Strip, circa 1967, from Robert Carl Cohen’s Mondo Hollywood:
In 2011 Ed Ruscha was Guest-DJ on KCRW in Los Angeles, where he spun Hank Ballard & The Midnighters – “Annie Had A Baby”
Ed Ruscha: “I was introduced to this in high school. I grew up in Oklahoma and lived through the Jim Crow era, where racial tensions were high. So race music, or rhythm and blues at that time, was music that was pretty much taboo.”
“Of course that made it more listenable at the same time, but it was such great music. You couldn’t listen to it on the radio, ’cause it was banned. But this particular tune was… you know, you find out about the opposite sex and this came along at a time where it just, like, tickled everybody that I was in school with, and so this was a very popular tune.”
“You’d have to buy it kind of almost on the black market, but you could get it. It just wouldn’t be on the radio. And Hank Ballard went on to make other recordings too, and he became part of like the Doo-Wop movement so there’s lots of intertwining of musical styles that come after him so, “Annie Had a Baby.”
In January, 2011 Ed Ruscha guest DJ’d on KCRW in Los Angeles and spoke of his early California days:
“I’m going to play this tune called “Goodnight My Love,” and this kind of represents everything I felt about California when I first moved here. Things were happening so fast and there was a rich kind of thing happening right in central L.A., which is Hollywood and Los Angeles proper, not so much the suburbs. Also Central Avenue, I mean all the great musicians were playing there.”
“And seeing that and just kind of building this structure of thoughts about music and how it jived with art. I was studying art at that time at Choiunard Art Institute and this kind of represented that romantic aspect of coming to California.”