Ed Ruscha was born in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1937 and grew up in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, from 1941 to 1956. He moved to Los Angeles, California, and attended Chouinard Art Institute from 1956 to 1960. His work has been exhibited internationally and is represented in major museums and private collections throughout the world. In 2001, Ruscha was elected to the American Academy of Arts & Letters as a member of the Department of Art. He was chosen by the U.S. Department of State to represent the United States at the 2005 Venice Biennale.
Video: Ed Ruscha Interview: A Long Way from Oklahoma on Louisiana Channel (Youtube)
Twentysix Gasoline Stations, a modest publication consisting of black and white photographs with captions, is an iconic artist book. The photographs are of petrol stations, along the highway between Ruscha’s home in Los Angeles and his parent’s house in Oklahoma City. Taken from the highway and often including large areas of forecourt or road, the shots appear to be simply factual records of the petrol stations. Each opening of the book reveals one or two photographs in varying but repeated layouts, with the photographs set in relatively large areas of white space. The captions consist of the name of the petrol station and its location. The front cover has the title printed in red as three separate lines, the stark brightness of the design muted by the wrap around protective cover. The book is the first in a sequence of photographic artist books by Ruscha.
Twentysix Gasoline Stations was first published in 1963 (although the title page states 1962) in an edition of 400 numbered copies. It was subsequently republished in two unnumbered editions.
There are things that I’m constantly looking at that I feel should be elevated to greater status, almost to philosophical status or to a religious status. That’s why taking things out of context is a useful tool to an artist. It’s the concept of taking something that’s not subject matter and making it subject matter.