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de Young Museum
May 23, 2016
Ed Ruscha, Back of Hollywood, 1977

Explore Ed Ruscha's Great American West at the de Young

The Ed Ruscha's Great American West exhibit has ended. Please visit the de Young Museum webpage for current exhibitions.


On view at the de Young Museum from July 16-Oct. 9, 2016, the special exhibition Ed Ruscha and the Great American West  includes 99 works that reveal Ruscha’s engagement with the American West and its starring role in our national mythology. This exhibit has been organized by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and celebrates the career of one of the world’s most influential and critically acclaimed artists.

In 1956, at the age of 18, Ed Ruscha left his home in Oklahoma and drove a 1950 Ford sedan to Los Angeles, where he had been accepted to Chouinard Art Institute. His trip roughly followed the fabled Route 66 through the Southwest, which featured many of the sights—auto repair shops, billboards, and long stretches of roadway punctuated by telephone poles—that would provide him with artistic subjects for decades to come. 

Nine sections in the exhibition reveal Ruscha’s fascination with the evolving landscape and iconic character of the “Great American West” in symbolic, evocative, and ironic renditions. These include works that depict gasoline stations, long an important element of Ruscha’s work, as well as others that comment on Los Angeles and the film industry, such as his famous “Technicolor” images of the Hollywood sign. The exhibition also includes works in which a word or phrase is the sole subject, often depicted in a variety of forms that simulate poured liquids, cut ribbons or spray paint.

Ruscha continues to work steadily at the age of 77, and this exhibition includes prints made as recently as 2015. He maintains a studio in the California desert and makes regular road trips through the spare and evocative landscapes that first inspired him as a young man. Ruscha has now worked in California for more than 50 years, and this exhibition celebrates his long commitment to exploring the American west as both romantic concept and modern reality.

Tickets for this special exhibition and general admission will be available in June and can be purchased online or on-site at the de Young. More work from Ed Ruscha, along with other artists' visions of the western U.S., can be seen at the companion exhibit Wild West: Plains to the Pacific, on view at the Legion of Honor, from June 18-Sept. 11, 2016. 

Bring a group of 10 or more and take advantage of special group benefits! Benefits include discounted tickets, no waiting in line at the admissions desk, private tours, and priority booking with access to preferred time and date. For more information and to download a group order form, please visit the de Young online.

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