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*Rose Petal (American Beauty)* from *Stains*

Edward Ruscha. Rose Petal (American Beauty) from Stains. 1969 371

Portfolio of seventy-six mixed-media stains on paper, including inside cover on silk moiré fabric. Each sheet approx. 11 7/8 × 10 3/4" (30.2 × 27.3 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Iolas Gallery. © 2023 Edward Ruscha. Photo: Thomas Griesel

Artist,  Ed Ruscha: Stains is a boxed set of single sheets of paper, done in 1969, and it’s like a little treasure chest of overlooked things. Stains have always been scorned, I guess. And staining something, letting a wet material sink down into the support, in this case paper, was my interest.

Curator, Ana Torok: This Stains portfolio includes 75 sheets stained with different materials and the 76th is a stain of the artist’s own blood on the interior cover of the portfolio.

Conservator, Laura Neufeld: Some of the materials don’t leave a mark at all, but are very specific. You get drops of California tap water, a drop of the Pacific Ocean, which is about the place where the artist is making this work in Los Angeles.

But then you get things that are more visible like grass or rose petals. The red of a Heinz ketchup, the brown of the Hershey syrup, the green of the Listerine mouthwash, the jewel tones of our everyday life. And some of them are volatile materials. He uses an acid that has totally eroded the paper. A milk stain has yellowed, and the rose petals have become more brown looking as the compounds have degraded over time.