Two Films by Ed Ruscha
Presented by White Light Cinema


October 27th, 2009

Picture: copyright Ed Ruscha. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery

One of the acknowledged masters of mid and late-twentieth century art, Ed Ruscha has created a powerful body of work that skewers the popular culture and marketing of the time through simple, and now iconic, renderings of signage, gas stations, consumer items, Hollywood imagery, and other modern detritus.

Unlike Andy Warhol’s works of similar subjects, Ruscha rejects the New York grit for a Los Angeles sheen-much of the power of his paintings comes from the ironic gloss that he gives to his images. As Warhol did in NY, Ruscha has become something of a counterpoint West Coast celebrity and is admired by and hangs out with Dennis Hopper, Mick Jagger, and others. He, like many of his art world contemporaries in the 1950s-70s, also explored filmmaking.

Ruscha’s efforts were short-lived-he only made two films as compared to the several hundred Warhol made. But they are idiosyncratic and fascinating evocations of the time and carry-through many of the themes Ruscha developed in his painting.

Premium (1971, 24 mins., 16mm)
Featuring artist Larry Bell, model Léon Bing, designer Rudi Gernreich, and musician/comedian Tommy Smothers. Based on the Mason Williams short story “How to Derive the Maximum Enjoyment from Crackers.”

“The immediate source of PREMIUM was a photo-novel, CRACKERS, that Ruscha made in 1969, itself deriving from a story, “How to Derive the Maximum Enjoyment from Crackers,’ written by Mason Williams . . .

A man played by the artist Larry Bell buys a shopping cart full of tomatoes, lettuce, and other salad foods and five one-gallon cans of dressing. Driving to a skid row flophouse, he rents a $2 room from the desk clerk, played by the designer Rudi Gernreich. In the rat-infested room, he pulls back the covers of the bed and on it very carefully prepares a huge salad, a sculptural composition of greens that flower out symmetrically from its center and then replaces the bed cover.”
(David E. James, The Most Typical Avant-Garde)

We won’t spoil the rest.

Miracle (1975, 28 mins., 16mm)
“Features artist Jim Ganzer and actress Michelle Phillips in a tale about a strange day in the life of an auto mechanic.” (Harvard Film Archive)

These films are Copyright Ed Ruscha, Courtesy Gagosian Gallery.

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