18 / 20


Edward Ruscha. Spread. 1972 372

Tobacco stain (recto and verso), 3' 6" × 12' (106.7 × 365.8 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Purchased with funds provided by Kathy and Richard S. Fuld, Jr. © 2023 Ed Ruscha. Photo: Jonathan Muzikar

Artist, Ed Ruscha:  In the late 60s, I kind of reached a logjam in my work where I was tired of painting a skin of paint on a canvas. I began experimenting with organic substances like fruit juices and egg yolks. I had a certain thing I had to get out that involved a continuation of using words and also using unorthodox materials.  

Conservator, Laura Neufeld: Spread is brown because it is actually tobacco leaves that have been rubbed onto the surface. He was using Beech-Nut Chewing Tobacco. It has a kind of sticky, resinous quality. Some of it is still stuck onto the surface, creating the kind of textural effect. I think it took a really long time to build up the darkness of color that you see on the sheet. It was labor-intensive.

Curator, Ana Torok: Ed takes drawing into this third dimension, blowing it up at this monumental scale. It’s floating in the space and we almost approach it as we might approach a sculpture. You’re really encountering the letter S, the letter P, at a scale that’s almost human-sized.  To me, it’s this culmination of what Ed is trying to do with language.