New Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center announces details of landmark exhibit by Oklahoma Cultural Treasure
Oklahoma Contemporary today announced details of "Ed Ruscha: OKLA," the first solo exhibition of work by Ed Ruscha in the artist’s home state and hometown, and the second major exhibition in Oklahoma Contemporary’s new building.
The exhibition will open Feb. 11 and continue through July 5, 2021.
Featuring objects spanning the artist’s more than 60-year career that explore his relationship to Oklahoma, "Ed Ruscha: OKLA" will present iconic pieces such as "Twentysix Gasoline Stations" and "Chocolate Room" alongside newer, lesser-known bodies of work, including two recent "Drum Skins" paintings, according to a news release.
The exhibition will include more than 70 works ranging from paintings and a large-scale installation to drawings, prints, books, photos and film.
"Ed Ruscha: OKLA" is billed as both the first solo exhibition of the artist’s work presented in the city of his childhood, and the first ever to explore the influence Oklahoma has had in forming the artist’s aesthetic sensibility, according to the news release.
“The mythos of Ed Ruscha is tied to Americana and the open road, both of which are rooted in his childhood here,” said Oklahoma Contemporary Artistic Director Jeremiah Matthew Davis in a statement. “We’re excited to share this landmark exhibition with our visitors, and hope the programs created by our incredible educational and curatorial teams can leverage Ruscha’s work to inspire the next generation of artists in Oklahoma. We are thrilled to be working closely with Ed Ruscha and his studio to bring this important facet of his work to light, and to do so in the state’s first survey of his iconic artworks. Hopefully, 'Ed Ruscha: OKLA' will help to broaden the public’s awareness of Oklahoma’s significant influence on Ruscha’s work throughout his storied career.”
Oklahoma looms large in Ruscha’s work, as a source of inspiration and as a foundation on which his unique perspective on America was first formed. In 1956, he embarked on the first of many road trips — to which he would frequently make reference in his art — from Oklahoma to Los Angeles to begin his artistic career.
Named an Oklahoma Cultural Treasure in 2015, Ruscha has repeatedly been quoted in the years since saying everything he’s done was already part of him when he left Oklahoma at 18. "Ed Ruscha: OKLA" is the first exhibition to examine the ways in which the visual culture and language of his upbringing provided ongoing inspiration throughout his artistic career.
The exhibition will be structured around five themes that are central to Ruscha’s life and work, and signify his connection to Oklahoma:
- The first theme, "Oklahoma OK," showcases his many direct references to Oklahoma itself, both textual and otherwise, and includes a number of works including the letters “OK,” which takes a double meaning as both “okay” and as a reference to his childhood home.
- "Made in U.S.A." looks at Ruscha’s perspective as an American more broadly, from his depictions of the decline of American manufacturing to more direct engagements with politics.
- Exploring an important facet of the artist’s childhood, "51% Angel, 49% Devil" demonstrates the continuing influence of growing up Catholic.
- "Pop Origins" traces Ruscha’s frequent references to the popular culture of his 1940’s childhood, including movies, comics and advertising.
- Looking at his fascination with cars and life on the road, "US 66" examines the vistas and mythology of the route west, driven by Ruscha many times as he returned, over and over, from his home in L.A. to his roots in Oklahoma City.
"Ed Ruscha: OKLA" is co-curated by Alexandra Schwartz, a New York-based independent curator who has written extensively about Ruscha's work, in coordination with the team at Oklahoma Contemporary and the artist and his studio.
“'Ed Ruscha: OKLA' is the first exhibition to examine Ruscha’s work within the context of his formative years in Oklahoma,” Schwartz said in a statement. “While historically his work has always been closely associated with Los Angeles, his artistic sensibility was shaped by his midwestern upbringing. This exhibition traces the roots of his art in Oklahoma and the American heartland.”
As previously reported, the coronavirus pandemic arrived in the Sooner State the week of Oklahoma Contemporary's planned March grand opening for its new $30 million home, forcing the organization to postpone the opening festivities. In August, the multidisciplinary arts center started allowing people to make reservations to access its new building via a free timed-ticketing system. To register for timed tickets, click here.
The new Oklahoma Contemporary's inaugural exhibit "Bright Golden Haze" has been extended through Jan. 4, 2021, due to the pandemic.
As previously reported, "Bright Golden Haze" features a dazzling array of works by nationally and internationally renowned artists. With its title taken from the first lyric in the iconic musical "Oklahoma!," "Bright Golden Haze" spotlights contemporary works exploring the medium and manifestations of light.
For more information, go to oklahomacontemporary.org.
Along with the upcoming "Ed Ruscha: OKLA" at Oklahoma Contemporary, the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art in Norman is currently exhibiting "OK/LA," a group exhibit featuring work by Ed Ruscha, his brother Paul Ruscha and their fellow Oklahoma artists Patrick Blackwell, Joe Goode, Jerry McMillan and Mason Williams. For more information about this exhibit, click here.