Ruscha in real life

Stack of books printed by Ed Ruscha

I have been a fan of the work of Ed Ruscha from the first time I saw his work. I was trying to pin point that time but have been unable to do that. I know it was when I returned to SIU to finish my BFA, so around 2001. And I am pretty sure it was in my wanderings in the library. Needless to say I have really enjoyed his work for some time and was really excited to learn that our library had copies of some of his book work, so I checked them out.

The first thing that I found interesting about these books is that they were in the general population, not in special collections. This is a small stack of books that at auction could fetch thousands of dollars. Granted, they are not all in pristeen shape, but five of them are first editions, two of which have their original covers. These are rare books.

The second thing I noticed was the re-binding of a few of them. I guess that is standard procedure for most soft cover books at a university library so they last longer. One interesting thing is the removal of the soft covers so they can be glued to the hard cover as seen in the image below.

Various Small Fires by Ed Ruscha, 1964

It is interesting to interact with something that you have only ever seen reproduced in two dimensions. I have seen a lot of these books reproduced in various catalogs and books, including the blank pages. You don’t get a feel for the pacing until you are holding it in your hands and are flipping through all of those blank pages. It is a surprise when you finally arrive at an image. Had these books been full of images, or all of the images at the front, blank pages at the back, the element of surprise would be lost. And they are much smaller that I would have thought. Only 5.5 x 6.75 inches. Scale is lost in reproductions.

I appreciate this work much more now that I have held it in my hands and looked through them. Amazing little books. I also made a great discovery one day while wandering around the library. We have an original Ed Ruscha lithograph hanging in a study area. Again, reproductions do not do justice to the pattern and texture he creates. So I guess the moral to this story is two fold. First, look at original art whenever and where ever you get the chance. It is NEVER the same in reproductions. And second, spend more time wandering around in the library. You can find amazing things.

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1 Comment »

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