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The Work of Art: Glimpse Creativity in the Making

The Ransom Center’s newly acquired Ed Ruscha archive reveals the creative process of one of the most influential artists working today. See his sketches, snapshots and journals.

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UT’s Harry Ransom Center has acquired the archive of pop artist Edward Ruscha. The materials reveal Ruscha’s creative process and offer a unique perspective of one of the most influential artists working today.

Ruscha’s journals, sketches, correspondence and contact sheets show an artist at work, planning everything from the order of photographs in a book to the placement of screws on a wall display. Block hand-lettering and sketches hint at his background in graphic design. (Today’s visual note-taking fans will see a kindred spirit in Ruscha.)

In the years since his first solo exhibition in 1963, Ruscha has been widely recognized for his paintings, drawings, photographs and artist’s books. In 2013, he was honored by Time magazine as one of the “100 Most Influential People.”

Ruscha is known for art that often manipulates words and phrases in unconventional ways. Ruscha’s art is deeply influenced by his love of books and language, as reflected by his frequent use of palindromes, unusual word pairings and rhyme. He has often combined the cityscape of Los Angeles with vernacular language, and his early work as a graphic artist continues to strongly influence his aesthetic and thematic approach.

Ruscha’s “Twentysix Gasoline Stations,” a thin paperback that resembles an industrial manual of the 1960s, is often considered to be the first modern artist’s book. The Ransom Center archive includes snapshots of the gas stations, Ruscha’s notes about the project, a letter rejecting the book from the Library of Congress (noting the book’s “unorthodox form and supposed lack of information”) and an advertisement with the headline “REJECTED Oct. 2, 1963, by the Library of Congress.”

The entire archive comprises five personal journals filled with preliminary sketches and notes; materials related to the making of his artist’s book of Jack Kerouac’s “On The Road” (2010); notes, photographs, correspondence and contact sheets relating to the creation and publication of his many other artist’s books; his portfolios; and several art commissions.

Once processed and cataloged, the materials will be accessible in the Ransom Center’s reading room to students, researchers and the public.

A small selection of materials from the archive will be on display in the Ransom Center’s lobby through Dec 1.