ED RUSCHA – They Called Her Styrene

I don’t think I have ever seen an Ed Ruscha piece in a gallery. My encounter with the fella I would probably call my favourite artist was in Waterstones on Oxford Street. I am not even a big book buyer, I think I was searching for a suitable present for the kind of friend you don’t see very often and cannot really be sure of their taste. One of the things I considered for her was the Phaidon collection of Ruscha’s word paintings ‘They Called Her Styrene’.

It soon became clear to me that this was a thoroughly unsuitable present for my friend, but something I had to own. Billed as a novel ‘ of sorts ‘ it is nothing of the sort. Instead it collects about three hundred of Ruscha’s word paintings (mainly paintings, a few other media’s are used) in an order which supposedly tells a story. It is not a particularly coherent story, or even one you would get any marks for at school aged five. The story goes something like this:

‘Hello, hello, hello, hello, description,hippy phrase, violence, philosophy, goodbye, goodbye, bye, see ya.’

I think we would all agree this is no Dickens. This is the ultimate Brown Wedge artifact by the way, a supposed novel made of (supposed?) art. Still the paintings in themselves are the model of typographic simplicity. My favourites are the portentous yet nonsensical phrases ‘ much like the cover image. I have a feeling my thing is the words themselves, words presented as art gives me a kick. And a book of about three hundred of these was certainly great flicking on the bus. And then I got home and cut the bastard up and mounted six of them on our walls. Every two or three months I turn them over, or get more out of the book. Or give them to people as gifts (I think Tom rather likes his Eat, The Dance one).

But I sometimes wonder what it would be like to encounter them, full sized, on the stark white wall of an art gallery. Possibly not as good; they are part of my life now. Waking up to see ‘Bozo Project’ just above my head informs nearly every aspect of my life, as does the ‘Miracle!’ which sends me to bed. The ‘Wee-Wee’ in the bathroom is just pure whimsy however.