Edward Ruscha. OOF. 1962 (reworked 1963)

Edward Ruscha OOF 1962 (reworked 1963)

  • MoMA, Floor 4, 412 The David Geffen Wing

“The single word, its guttural monosyllabic pronunciation, that’s what I was passionate about,” Ruscha has said of his early work. “Loud words, like slam, smash, honk.” The comic-book quality of these words reflects the Pop artists’ fascination with popular culture. Lettered in clear typography rather than handwriting, the words are definite and impersonal in shape; unlike the Abstract Expressionists of the 1940s and ’50s, Ruscha had no interest in letting a painting emerge through an introspective process: “I began to see that the only thing to do would be a preconceived image. It was an enormous freedom to be premeditated about my art.”

Like OOF, many of his paintings have “a certain comedic value,” Ruscha has said, and their humor is underlined by the paradox of their appearance in the silent medium of paint, with neither an image nor a sentence to help them evoke the sounds they denote. OOF is particularly paradoxical, as a word describing a wordless grunt. In Ruscha’s hands, its double Os also punned on recent American paintings—the Targets of Jasper Johns and the Circles of Kenneth Noland.

Publication excerpt from From MoMA Highlights: 375 Works from The Museum of Modern Art, New York (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2019)

Rarely uttered aloud, the work "oof" belongs to the world of comic strips, not the great literature and art, and particularly not to painting. We expect the emphatic word to appear wrapped in a speech bubble with an exclamation point at the end, but Ruscha has dedicated a large-scale painting to it as if it were worthy of veneration. Of his work from this period Ruscha has said, "I was interested in monosyllabic word sounds that seemed to have a certain comedic value to them." In capital letters, "oof" floats against an empty blue backdrop, suspended somewhere between image and language and between iconicity and absurdity.

Gallery label from 2008.

The word "oof" belongs to the world of comic strips. Ruscha, instead, renders it in oil and acrylic on canvas, giving this silly onomatopoeic grunt an incommensurable monumentality: “I was interested in monosyllabic word sounds that seemed to have a certain comedic value to them,” he said. Floating against an empty blue backdrop, OOF is suspended between image, language, icon, and absurdity.

Gallery label from On to Pop, September 29, 2010-April 25, 2011.
Medium
Oil on canvas
Dimensions
71 1/2 x 67" (181.5 x 170.2 cm)
Credit
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
Object number
256.1988
Copyright
© 2019 Edward Ruscha
Department
Painting and Sculpture

Installation views

MoMA collaborated with Google Arts & Culture Lab on a project using machine learning to identify artworks in installation photos.

If you notice an error, please contact us at digital@moma.org.

If you would like to reproduce an image of a work of art in MoMA’s collection, or an image of a MoMA publication or archival material (including installation views, checklists, and press releases), please contact Art Resource (publication in North America) or Scala Archives (publication in all other geographic locations).

All requests to license audio or video footage produced by MoMA should be addressed to Scala Archives at firenze@scalarchives.com. Motion picture film stills or motion picture footage from films in MoMA's Film Collection cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. For licensing motion picture film footage it is advised to apply directly to the copyright holders. For access to motion picture film stills please contact the Film Study Center. More information is also available about the film collection and the Circulating Film and Video Library.

If you would like to reproduce text from a MoMA publication or moma.org, please email text_permissions@moma.org. If you would like to publish text from MoMA’s archival materials, please fill out this permission form and send to archives@moma.org.

This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information or spotted an error, please send feedback to digital@moma.org.