Getty Acquires Important Ruscha Photo Trove


What would Los Angeles art history be without Ed Ruscha? A week after the multi-venue exhibition initiative Pacific Standard Time, celebrating Southern California’s role in contemporary art, got under way, the J. Paul Getty Museum and the Getty Research Institute announced yesterday their joint acquisition of 74 photographs by Ruscha, along with his “Streets of Los Angeles” archive, containing thousands of negatives, hundreds of contact sheets, and related documents. Part purchase and part promised gift of the artist, the trove arguably represents his most influential works.

Born in Nebraska and raised in Oklahoma, Ruscha moved to L.A. in 1956. He began showing with Ferus gallery in 1963, the year he started seminal projects like the books Twentysix Gasoline Stations (1963), Some Los Angeles Apartments (1965), Every Building on the Sunset Strip (1966),Thirtyfour Parking Lots in Los Angeles (1967) and Real Estate Opportunities (1970). The books focus on the more mundane features of Tinseltown, capturing the ethos of the city and car culture. [See the current issue of A.i.A., featuring an interview with the artist.]

The “Streets of Los Angeles” archive includes production material for Every Building on the Sunset Strip, along with similar projects he did in 1974–75 about Santa Monica Boulevard, Melrose Avenue, the Pacific Coast Highway and, since 2007, over 25 other L.A. streets. Some of the works will be presented in two exhibitions scheduled for spring 2013, “Los Angeles Architecture: 1940–1990” and “In focus: Ed Ruscha.”

Photo: Ed Ruscha’s Standard, Amarillo, Texas, 1962. Courtesy Ed Ruscha / J. Paul Getty Museum