Review – Ed Ruscha – Every Building On The Sunset Strip

Ed Ruscha (1937)

cofFig. 1. Every Building On The Sunset Strip (1966)

Every Building On The Sunset StripFig. 2. Every Building On The Sunset Strip (1966)

These images are important to show together. The first is a close up of part of the whole sequence, which appears to be made by taking photos incrementally that slightly overlap. They start at one end of sunset strip and are taken down the whole length of the road, and then back on the other side. Ruscha then had these printed into a strip book, with one side of the street the correct way up, and then the other side is upside down at the bottom of the page. I consider this sequence to be documentary photography, that becomes a historical artifact. The presentation is the most appealing aspect, and how I would love to own this, and slowly explore each page, look at the shops, buildings, people and transport. I have had a look online and certainly cannot afford the originals (£1,000 – £7,000). If any body is aware of later additions which are more affordable, then I would love to know where I can buy it.

At first glance the photos look to have been taken at different times of day and have a change of light conditions (I could not imagine a project of this nature being undertaken in one day). The montage that is the correct way up, the space in between and then the images that are inverse, add together to create a scene that is as if the viewer were looking down from above, but with a slightly altered perspective. I love it, and it has inspired me somewhat, although what is coming to mind for me is a different take upon the theme. When I start exercise 3.1 Searching, I will use my camera at eye level and take a shot every few seconds as I walk around either Durham or Leeds, so that I have a record of my journey. Once I have developed them I will turn them into a photo-video. This will be a sequence that records a journey, but also becomes a documentary style,  historical sequence.

Anyhow, back to Ruscha.

Although the photos were taken along the Strip and then stitched together, the interval that Ruscha took the photos means that there were physical gaps between where each photo was taken. This means that although the complete photo is a historical document, it is partial. There is a lot of symbology to the image that I had missed completely, the rise of the car and the increase of urbanisation and sprawl. Both of which were concerns at the time (Hacking, 2014; 408, 409)

MoMA records that Ruscha had built upon the work of Walker Evans ” but their deadpan, cool aesthetic is radically different. While each book chronicles an aspect of Los Angeles or the artist’s round-trip drives between LA and Oklahoma, their use of photography as a form of map-making or topographical study signals a conceptual, rather than documentary, thrust.” (MoMA Gallery Label; 2012-2013)

The above quote has been a little difficult to get my head around, map making and topography are conceptual rather than documentary? Rushca’s map making is dissimilar to maps created by Ordnance Survey which provide accurate and detailed coverage of the complete area of the map. Ruscha’s photo books are partial and incomplete representations of journeys that he chooses to take, and he chooses when to make the shot. They become a representation of something that he wants to explore and tell, rather than what is there. Exploring the themes that arise from Sunset Strip, cars, urbanisation, which are in my opinion both conceptual and documentary. I don’t believe that they have to be considered as an either or. The polarisation by analysis is a concept of the reviewer (including me)/academic, and their beliefs take the viewer further away from the photo, and even more distant from the subject. I have gotten myself a little carried away.

If anyone is able to shed further light or ideas on the documentary/conceptual themes I would be grateful to hear them.

What ever ideas have been explored I like Ruscha’s style of photography, and would love to get my hands on some of his work.

Illustrations

Figure 1; Ruscha, E; 1966; Every Building On The Sunset Strip [Offset lithograph on paper]; In: Hacking, J; 2014; Photography The Whole Story, Page 408; London; Thames and Hudson

Figure 2; Ruscha, E; 1966; Every Building On The Sunset Strip (1966) [Offset lithograph on paper]; AT: https://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/collection/works/429.2008.a-bbb/

References

Hacking, J; 2014; Photography the Whole Story; London; Thames and Hudson

MoMA Gallery Label; 2012-2013; The Shaping of New Visions: Photography, Film, Photobook, April 16, 2012–April 29, 2013; Online AT: https://www.moma.org/collection/works/146931 (accessed on 23/02/2018)

Ordnance Survey; Online AT: https://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/

Wikimedia Foundation, Inc; 2018; Edward Ruscha; Online AT: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Ruscha (accessed on 23/02/2018)

4 Replies to “Review – Ed Ruscha – Every Building On The Sunset Strip”

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