In the 1960s and 1970s, the artist Ed Ruscha created a series of small photo-conceptual artist’s books, among them Twentysix Gas Stations, Various Small Fires, Every Building on the Sunset Strip, Thirtyfour Parking Lots, Real Estate Opportunities, and A Few Palm Trees. Featuring mundane subjects photographed prosaically, with idiosyncratically deadpan titles, these “small books” were sought after, collected, and loved by Ruscha’s fans and fellow artists. Over the past thirty years, close to 100 other small books that appropriated or paid homage to Ruscha’s have appeared throughout the world. This book collects ninety-one of these projects, showcasing the cover and sample layouts from each along with a description of the work. It also includes selections from Ruscha’s books and an appendix listing all known Ruscha book tributes.
These small books revisit, imitate, honor, and parody Ruscha in form, content, and title. Some rephotograph his subjects: Thirtyfour Parking Lots, Forty Years Later. Some offer a humorous variation: Various Unbaked Cookies (which concludes, as did Ruscha’s Various Small Fires, with a glass of milk), Twentynine Palms (twenty-nine photographs of palm-readers’ signs). Some say something different: None of the Buildings on Sunset Strip. Some reach for a connection with Ruscha himself: 17 Parked Cars in Various Parking Lots Along Pacific Coast Highway Between My House and Ed Ruscha’s.
With his books, Ruscha expanded the artist’s field of permissible subjects, approaches, and methods. With VARIOUS SMALL BOOKS, various artists pay tribute to Ed Ruscha and extend the legacy of his books.
About the Editors
Jeff Brouws is a photographer whose work is in many private and public collections, including Harvard’s Fogg Museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Princeton University Art Museum, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. His homages to Ruscha include Twentysix Abandoned Gas Stations.
Wendy Burton is a photographer whose work is in such collections as the San Francisco Museum of Art, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, and the University of Louisville Photographic Archive. Her homage to Ruscha is Real Estate Opportunities.
Hermann Zschiegner is a principal in the award-winning New York–based design agency TWO-N, a member of the ABC Artists’ Book Cooperative, and the author of Thirtyfour Parking Lots on Google Earth.
“At once celebratory, serious, and challenging, the collection gracefully offers new points of inquiry for considering an artist whose core questions remain wonderfully unresolved.”—Publishers Weekly
“Various Small Books offers a survey of how an artist’s body of work can influence art history and contemporary practice. But it is also a perceptive look at how appropriation can evolve into innovation.”—Steven Heller, New York Times Book Review
“More important, the book covers a lot of historical ground, taking that tectonic year 1989 as its starting point and using the explosion of international biennials and triennials for an art-world map utterly different from the one that existed a generation or two ago.”—T The New York Times Style Magazine