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*Swarm of Red Ants* from *Insects*

Edward Ruscha. Swarm of Red Ants from Insects. 1972 370

One from a portfolio of six screenprints, 20 1/8 × 27" (51.1 × 68.6 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Marian Goodman . © 2023 Edward Ruscha. Photo: Robert Gerhardt

Curator, Ana Torok:  In 1972, Ruscha produced the Insects Portfolio. Each print depicts a different insect. Sometimes it’s a swarm of ants, sometimes it’s a bunch of cockroaches.

Artist, Ed Ruscha:  This work involved my indulgence into patterns, I guess. These works emerge from a foray that I’ve always had with little humble objects floating in space. In this case, it happened to be insects.

I basically feel like my work comes out of abstract art and that this work is really no exception. I keep thinking of a shotgun blast because most of these works appear to be that way. When you put them up on a wall and look at them, they kind of have that randomness that I appreciated, and I think that’s where that came from.

Ana Torok: Ruscha creates this image of a seemingly random swarm of insects through this meticulous draftsmanship. They’re each depicted at their actual size. And if you look closely, Ruscha has given each individual ant a tiny shadow.

It’s interesting that Ruscha would have chosen insects as a subject in this particular moment. Just a couple of years earlier, Ruscha had produced the Chocolate Room, which you may have seen in a previous gallery. As Ruscha recalls, just as he was finishing up that installation and exiting the room, he saw a trail of ants on their way in, heading straight toward the chocolate.