An influential Los Angeles painter, printmaker, and photographer, Edward Ruscha developed a vibrant signature style of combining words, images, objects, and landscapes in deadpan ways—sometimes humorous, sometimes sinister—that associated him first with Pop art in the 1960s and then with Conceptual art in the 1970s. Trained as a commercial illustrator, Ruscha had an early interest in comic books, graphic design, typography, and serial imagery that led him to produce a now landmark series of inexpensive, large-edition artist’s books comprising black-and-white photographic essays on commonplace architecture and objects. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, he began focusing on traditional printmaking, which has remained a consistent and vital part of his artistic practice. Working in screenprint, lithography, etching, and sometimes utilizing unconventional organic substances instead of inks, Ruscha has completed more than three hundred prints and some twenty artist’s books to date.
The gasoline station is Ruscha’s most iconic image. He began experimenting with the subject in his first artist’s book, Twentysix Gasoline Stations (1963), which reproduces a series of banal photographs the artist took while driving on Route 66 between Los Angeles and his hometown of Oklahoma City. That year, converting an otherwise ordinary locale into a dramatic, even mysterious symbol of the American vernacular landscape, Ruscha created a monumental painting titled Standard Station, Amarillo, Texas, based on one of the photographs but with a radically foreshortened composition. A few years later he made this print, further exploring the nuances of his emblematic image. Using the medium of screenprint, Ruscha was able to achieve areas of solid, flat color, as well as sinuously blended colors made with the “split fountain” technique, one of the first fine-art applications of this commercial process that combines differently colored inks. Reusing the screens from the print, Ruscha continued to experiment with Standard Station, and eventually varied colors and compositions to create three additional printed versions.
Publication excerpt from an essay by Judith Hecker, in Deborah Wye, Artists and Prints: Masterworks from The Museum of Modern Art, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2004, p. 172.