Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University
For more than fifty years, Ed Ruscha has combined his interest in conceptual art and popular culture to make drawings, paintings and photographs that are often inextricably linked to the urban landscape of Southern California. Throughout the 1960s, Ruscha undertook several projects in which he documented seemingly banal architectural aspects of the greater Los Angeles area including gas stations, hotel swimming pools, and apartment buildings. Absent of human activity, these images display an objectivity and cool remove that is common in much of the artist’s work. Parking Lots, taken in 1967, is one of the most iconic series and was published as a book titled Thirty-four Parking Lots.
Taken from a helicopter with the commercial photographer Art Alanis, this body of work is at once a documentary endeavor and a commentary on the expansive and rapidly changing landscape of Los Angeles. These aerial images have long been of interest to architects and other students of urbanism for their formal and topographical qualities. Ruscha, however, has disavowed any interest in this by stating that he views these photographs as merely technical data. He has noted that “architects write me about the parking lots book because they are interested in seeing parking lot patterns …. But those patterns and their abstract design quality mean nothing to me. I’ll tell you what is more interesting: the oil droppings on the ground.”
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website