In 1978, Ed Ruscha moved from single words or images to phrases. There has been much written about the koan clairty of the phrases, how much of America and Hollywood they compile in a few cryptic words. (I would recommend this elegant examanation by Elaine Equi:

There is one though that has haunted me for days. It has a wide aqua field with undalting white patches. It looks better then Hockney, for example, because there was something unreal/surreal/subreal about his swimming pools, with this field it looks as if its august and you are pushing yr body thru the water.

This is even more important–the phrase that rides on top the wave:


The shape of the words is rectangular, like a little raft. The lack of puncation means that we do not know if this is a commandment or an interogative or something else. The words are white, like they are painted on the deep end at the same time as floating above–stable and unstable, in stasis.

Then that sentence, think of it as a Robert Townes update on Amazing Grace. I once was blind/but now can see. But it’s an impossible task isn’t it, seeing a clear object in 1000 cubic feet of water ? Anyways, do contact lenses float or sink? So it is more like I once was blind/now I see/then I was blind/now can I see? This is the whole of Ruscha–giving us basic and banal questions, and telling us no answers.

I assume that the narrative behind this is of loss, a meloncholia mourning and a sort of blind panic. I lost my contact less at the bottom of the pool, and I can’t fucking see–help me, HELP ME. But maybe thats becasue i’m blind, and i panic. There are ways of reading this, of burma shave bemused, of resigned laconic, of something else entirely.

All we know is the contact lens and the swimming pool.