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Edward Ruscha. OOF. 1962 (reworked 1963) 361

Oil on canvas, 71 1/2 × 67" (181.5 × 170.2 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Agnes Gund, the Louis and Bessie Adler Foundation, Inc., Robert and Meryl Meltzer, Jerry I. Speyer, Anna Marie and Robert F. Shapiro, Emily and Jerry Spiegel, an anonymous donor, and purchase. © 2023 Edward Ruscha. Photo: Denis Doorly

Curator, Ana Torok: In 1956, Ruscha drove from Oklahoma City to Los Angeles to study commercial art. Ruscha took design classes. He learned about typography. But he also was required to take painting classes. Ruscha completes his studies and he starts rendering these single outsized words on canvas.

Artist, Ed Ruscha: My first paintings were of words that were monosyllabic, guttural utterings, like “oof” and “smash.” Words that had some kind of vocal power to them and also had a social discord.

These words came out of sound investigation. It’s almost like you walk into a butcher store and ask for a pound of bacon and they take a pound of bacon and slam it down on the counter. It’s the slam that I was after.

Designer, Gail Anderson: I got to know Ruscha as a design student, I’d see this work and think, what is this? This isn’t painting in this traditional sense. This is something else and, in particular, started to fall in love with OOF, because it was silly and beautifully done and was this gut punch comic strip word that was done in this serious but winky way.

Architect, Frank Gehry: He’s very interested in the mundane and the stupid.  A painting that says “Oof?” [laughs] It says everything about the place and time he was living in.

I’m Frank Gehry, I practice architecture, and I’m a friend of Ed Ruscha’s.

We always look to him for expressing the essence, in one word, of what we’re all thinking. That’s what’s beautiful about his work. He has a way of doing that that’s so powerful.

Audio courtesy Acoustiguide and Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago