Edward Ruscha, American, born 1937
oil on canvas
Gift of Mr. Marvin Small, by exchange, and others
© Phoenix Art Museum. All rights reserved.
© Ed Ruscha
North Wing, First Floor, Rineberg Gallery
Oklahoma-born Ed Ruscha moved to Los Angeles in the late 1950s, where he initially worked as a commercial sign painter. This experience compelled him to explore the relationship between words and images much like the work of Belgian Surrealist artists Marcel Broodthaers and René Magritte in previous decades. For Ruscha, text and image provided a path toward the exploration of and confusion between signs and images in the modern American landscape that were forever changed by post-war car culture. The adoption of automobiles and the rise of long-distance travel by train beginning in the 1920s, in fact, pressured homeowners to beautify the fronts of their homes for the sake of passersby. Houses were intentionally built facing the rail line to enhance the scenery and experience for travelers. High-Speed Gardening may have been inspired by the view of the southern California landscape, manicured lawns, and views along the Pacific coast from Ruscha’s car window. Intentionally enigmatic and abstract, this composition is painted in a spectrum of green tones that allows the viewer to make a multitude of associations ranging from traditional depictions of natural scenery and 18th-century landscape design to middle-class suburban development.