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Ed Ruscha
A detail of a drawing from Ed Ruscha’s notebook, part of the “Streets of Los Angeles archive” recently acquired by the Getty


Oct. 7, 2011

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The J. Paul Getty Museum and Research Institute has acquired 74 photographs by artist Ed Ruscha and the contact sheets, drawings, maquettes, proofs and thousands of negatives that make up the artist’s “Streets of Los Angeles” archive, part of which is a gift from Ruscha himself.

Most of the new photos were taken as part of Ruscha’s series of self-published photography books, including Some Los Angeles Apartments (1965), Thirtyfour Parking Lots in Los Angeles (1967), Twentysix Gasoline Stations (1963) and Real Estate Opportunities (1970). Originally published as inexpensive artist's books, the photo series have come to define Ruscha as a top California Conceptualist (as well as a second-generation Pop artist).

A suite of 10 gelatin silver prints of "Gasoline Stations" from a 1989 edition of 25 sold for $192,000 at Christie's New York in 2005. The books themselves are exceptionally rare, as well. Printed Matter lists a "mint" condition, signed copy of the third edition (1969) of Twentysix Gasoline Stations at $3,600.

The archive consists largely of the preparatory material Ruscha used for his famous book-length photo documentary of a stretch of the famous street, Every Building on the Sunset Strip (1966), including the three-panel maquette for the book. Ruscha went on to photograph dozens of other L.A. streets, and images of Santa Monica Boulevard, Melrose and the Pacific Coast Highway and others are in the archives. The collection includes three Polaroid studies Ruscha used for his painting The Los Angeles County Museum on Fire (1965-1968), and a proof of his Then and Now portfolio of Hollywood Boulevard.

"The archival material we are acquiring is virtually unknown,” said institute director Thomas Gaehtgens in a statement. “Very little of it has ever been exhibited or studied, and the depth of Ruscha’s engagement with L.A. urbanism will come as a surprise to many. “ 

Added Ruscha, "I am humbled and elated to have my work go to the top of the hill.”

An exhibition of the new acquisitions is scheduled for the spring of 2013.

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