In “Ed Ruscha: On the Road” at the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami, Ruscha takes the viewer on a road trip of sorts, following in Sal Paradise’s footsteps in Jack Kerouac’s quintessential Beat Generation novel “On the Road”.
A 1956 cross country trip from his native Oklahoma to California along Route 66 was Ruscha’s first step towards the artwork we see today. The 74 year old has since traveled many roads and his latest road trip has brought him to Miami to show his work, which has revolutionized the use of language in art.
Ruscha drew inspiration from Kerouac’s classic novel. The text in the six large paintings, 10 drawings and artist book is taken from the novel. The artist repurposes the text to create new landscapes hereby reinterpreting his America while keeping the original radical use of language alive to create a juxtaposition between the seemingly serene images of nature and the words.
The large paintings resemble road signs, further playing into the road trip imagery of the exhibition, literally taking the viewer on a journey across America. Text is sprawled across landscape paintings, with the text itself resembling landscapes as the horizontal lines across each painting create the same visual effect. While the text is not directly related to the image as various mountain tops of rock and snow are mismatched with statements about California, Mexico City, Missouri, women and life on the road, Ruscha still creates a coherent narrative.
Ruscha interprets the American landscape from ridges to snowy mountains and vast plains, while providing a moving commentary on American culture through his use of language. The paintings as well as the book pages of the limited edition artist book version of Kerouac’s classic by Ruscha are the story of the artist’s road trips.
Organized by the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles and curated by Douglas Fogel, “Ed Ruscha: On the Road,” is complimented by a series of photographs of parking lots and gas stations taken on Ruscha’s own trips and travels across the US.
Ed Ruscha invites viewers on a journey to explore American culture and an internal quest in pursuit of freedom and self determination set against the backdrop of the beautiful and varied landscapes of America.
“Ed Ruscha: On the Road” is on view at MOCA through September 2, 2012.