Edward Ruscha was born in 1937 in Omaha, Nebraska. Ruscha was raised in Oklahoma City, and in 1956 he made his way to Los Angeles. There he attended Chouinard Art Institute (now CalArts), where he studied painting, photography, and graphic arts intending to become a commercial artist. Quickly recognized in the 1960s as an important representative of the thriving Pop Art movement and a successor of the Beat Generation for his collages and text-based pieces, Ruscha’s work was exhibited at the Ferus, Leo Castelli, and Gagosian Galleries.
As a painter, drawer, and filmmaker, Ruscha has been heavily influenced by the city of Los Angeles and by his initial interest in graphic arts, incorporating text and urban, as well as Western, landscapes into his work. Ruscha comments on myths of American Romanticism, commercial culture, and urban life in humorous and ironic pieces. He sometimes uses unusual media in his work, including fruit and vegetable juices, blood, gunpowder, and grass stains, in works such as his Stains series.
In the 1980s, his style became more mystical, as he worked with rays of light, constellations, and other celestial themes. Ruscha is best known for his witty and enigmatic use of text in his paintings, which he continues to incorporate into his works today. He has held several retrospectives in New York, Washington, D.C., London, Paris, and Munich and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2001.
A master printmaker who also works across the mediums of books, drawing, photography, and even film—in 2009 he starred in a movie directed by the artist Doug Aitken—Ruscha has been an influence on a staggering array of artists, including Stephen Shore, Christopher Wool, and Anselm Kiefer. His work has been featured in dozens of exhibitions around the world, including Ed Ruscha: 50 Years of Painting at London's Hayward Gallery (2009), Ed Ruscha: Made in Los Angeles at Madrid's Reina Sofia in 2002, a 2000 retrospective at the Hirschhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, a survey of his works-on-paper at the J. Paul Getty Museum in 1998, and a 1982 retrospective that traveled to the Whitney Museum. In 2005 he represented the United States at the 51st Venice Biennale. In 2009, Ed Ruscha: Fifty Years of Painting opened at the Hayward Gallery, London, and traveled to the Haus der Kunst, Munich, and Moderna Museet, Stockholm (both 2010).
Ed Ruscha lives and works in Los Angeles.