VIDEO: Ed Ruscha at Archeus/ Postmodern | Art Southampton

Ed Ruscha (yet again) immortalizing the mundane and the overlooked

Archeus / Post Modern Ξ What could possibly have been so fascinating about the Standard Oil gas station to Ed Ruscha (pronounced ‘roo-SHAY’) that he decided to turn it into art? In our conversation with Brian Balfour-Oatts, Director of Archeus / Post-Modern Gallery in London, we discovered the clues. It lies in the subject matter. Ruscha committed himself to presenting everyday objects, which in turn provided “food for thought” to his philosophical mind. This artwork is a “classic Ruscha” with elements that characterize his work – words & common objects. Words, to him, are comparable to landscapes and he loves the simplicity of letters stacked together denoting a one specific meaning (or more). For example, “Hollywood” never only stood just for the sign outside the city of dreams. It stood for the industry, the city, the emotion. (Ruscha later made an artwork titled “Hollywood is a verb”)

Ruscha’s creative arrangement of the graphic elements amplified the visual effect, making it almost cinematic. Quoting Mr. Balfour-Oatts “…in his very unique style of graphic design, [Ruscha introduced] this very clever plunging diagonal line to make his idealized “Standard station”. The final result most certainly adds a sense of speed and fixed perspective, making you feel that you are reading the letters while driving by the station. (Exploring this theme further Ruscha created an oil on canvas titled “Burning Gas Station” in 1966, sold at Christie’s in November of 2007 for almost $7M.)

This caramel toned limited edition silkscreen dates back to the 1960’s and he revisited the subject in 2011. Used the same elements while stripping the work of all color and instead embossing the paper to relay depth. The new work is aptly named “Ghost Station”. As before, he used words and imagery very cleverly to convey more than what appears at very first glance…

The “artist’s proof” of this Ed Ruscha lithograph is actually one of the most sought-after works on paper and is estimated to be worth $500,000!

Brian Balfour-Oatts: 
This is “Mocha Standard” by Ed Ruscha. In the sixties, the Standard oil company was the largest company in the world run by John D. Rockefeller. Its stations were all across southern United States.  Ruscha, as an artist, specialized in recording the mundane, the overlooked, and the easily forgotten. He produced art as books, the very famous one being Twenty Six Gasoline Stations, in which he photographed twenty-six stations between LA and Oklahoma City. Two of the source photographs in that book were Standard stations.  One of them was used as the blueprint for this work, which he changed in his very unique style of graphic design, introducing this very clever plunging diagonal line to make his idealized Standard station. He produced four versions of this work. So, he returned to the Standard station theme in 2011 and produced this work, “Ghost Station”, so called for a number of reasons, I think memories of the sixties and just the imprint.  It is actually a colorless print, it is embossed. It follows exactly the same lines and sizes as the original sixties screen prints. Its more an echo of the image in our [memory]. I had no idea of how lionized the Standard station had become as a theme in Ruscha’s work. Christie’s sold “The Burning Station” for £7 million. By the twenty-first century, he really was aware of how important an image he had created.


Images courtesy Archeus/ Postmodern. This interview ©galleryIntell2013.