Made from a single piece of paper, Ed Ruscha’s Rusty Signs (2014) appear to have been rusted and weathered, reading as actual patinated metals. These remarkably realistic works draw upon motifs consistent with the artist’s career: components of visual culture, the passage of time, and Americanisms. Filtered through the language of common objects, the prints read DEAD END, CASH FOR TOOLS, and FOR SALE 17 ACRES in multiple iterations, as if they came from different locations, subjected to a different set of circumstances, with strikingly naturalistic gunshots and thick layers of rust and grime. In keeping with the course of his career, Ruscha is not merely representing the image of the sign as he has in the past through his paintings and photographs of signage but actually here recreates the sign itself.
Here, the artist says it best:
My work is based on processed photographic montage, which involves field research and computerized finalization. The works contain thousands of images reorganized and remodeled together to create new utopian venues.Oftentimes I start by spotting buildings that are slated for demolition. Usually they are located in the old, southern parts of Tel-Aviv, where I live.
In my studio, I clean and oil objects from the sites – sometime even interfering with the original shape or color – that is, I remodel them. When they are ready for the ‘stage’, I photograph each object separately, oftentimes from the same angle, using the same macro-lens and under the same light to ensure their homorganic status; the photographed objects will serve to facilitate democratic viewing conditions, which eliminates all hierarchies. At this point I start the process of constructing the “wall” in Photoshop. On this artificial structured canvas, I place and arrange the photographed objects, forming large-scale panoramas that simulate a fictitious space.
The human vision is functional and goal-oriented, so it often misses alternative possibilities of perception and observation. Guided by the desire to expand these possibilities, I am interested in creating utopian, fictitious, even ‘impossible’ spaces that point toward the limitations of sight and undermine the conventional process of seeing. Through them I wish to make the gap between perception and the construction of meaning present.