Whitehot Magazine

April 2008, Eddie Ruscha @ High Energy Constructs

 Eddie Ruscha, Shamanwise, 2008, acrylic, glitter, marijuana on canvas,
 40 x 30 inches, courtesy High Energy Constructs, LA

Eddie Ruscha: THIS IS IT!
High Energy Constructs, Los Angeles
15 March through 26 April, 2008

It’s hard to believe This is It was Eddie Ruscha’s first solo exhibition in Los Angeles. Son of the uber-famous Ed, Eddie’s been a fixture on the LA art scene for years; attracting crowds as a popular gallery and museum DJ, with a slate of recent group exhibitions, but apparently that is the case. Perhaps suspicious of the relatively easy fame that might result from the name, he seems determined to partially dilute his own abundance of talent with cheeky humor, irony and visual punning and a certain melodramatic flair – but also this foolery is belied by the hard work, precision, ambition and confidence that is clearly in evidence through his various categories of activity. In some ways the proof is in the abstraction. The attention lavished on the background the enormous title piece looks more like Ed Moses anyway. This is It, 2008, acrylic on canvas, 65 x 150 inches, features great swaths of fantasy dreamscapes with granulated textures including the reminiscent asphalt, barren canvas and epically inscrutable icons. The grim cosmic decadence and self-deprecating humor implicit in the gaudy pageantry of this kind of thing certainly deflects attention from the Oedipal comparison; but in the end it is inescapably the simplest works that are the most authentic, and that is the pair of car drawings. These curvaceous, tempting beauties are not retro, it’s more like nostalgia stylistically, a kind of Roger Rabbit classicism with everything exaggerated and ridiculously seductive. Even the hurtling skull transgressing the body of the car in Untitled (Skull through Rolls), 2008, acrylic, ink, pencil on paper, 22 ¼ x 31 ¾ inches can’t break its rhythm.

And speaking of rhythm, it’s hard to keep up the apocalypse obsession in the face of the strident psychedelic optimism and vibrant opulence of the pyramid-shaped arrangement of small canvases that filled its wall with an ethereal architectural presence. Each featured a more or less life-size skull floating in a series of primordial abstract environments. The endlessly variable series Deadhead(s) 1-27, 2007-08, acrylic on canvas, 12 x 12 inches each, culminated with the topmost piece sporting gold leaf and a radiating trellis of shocking orange fuzzy yarn. By way of contrasting tone, witness the lithe, crisply sensual, deeply shadowed draftsmanship, the hard-edged contrasts, the smooth celestial quality of the tie-dyed looking background melded with the pungent, crackling impasto metonymy of the cured and trimmed weed held aloft in Shamanwise, 2008 (acrylic, glitter, marijuana on canvas, 40 x 30 inches). Or for that matter, appreciate the deft use of language in the sound installation Earth and Sky Sound System 2008 with its claim to an infinite running time. The mixing up of source material is a tempting DJ-based metaphor with Ruscha; a cute case to make but not entirely without merit. Inasmuch as contemporary DJ culture is a deliberate concoction of global influences, setting the stage for a generational quest for tribal ritual and mind-expanding experiences (drug-induced, art-induced or otherwise); and considering a DJ’s love of surreal pattern-seeking, the way beats get broken and reduced to raw material for the forging of new hybrid compositions actually speaks volumes (no pun intended) to Eddie Ruscha’s visual style.

Shana Nys Dambrot

Shana Nys Dambrot is an art critic, curator, and author based in Downtown LA. She is the Arts Editor for the LA Weekly, and a contributor to Flaunt, Art and Cake, Artillery, and Palm Springs Life.

She studied Art History at Vassar College, writes essays for books and catalogs, curates and juries a few exhibitions each year, is a dedicated Instagram photographer and author of experimental short fiction, and speaks at galleries, schools, and cultural institutions nationally. She is a member of ArtTable and the LA Press Club, and sits on the Boards of Art Share-LA and the Venice Institute of Contemporary Art, the Advisory Council of Building Bridges Art Exchange, and the Brain Trust of Some Serious Business.


Photo of Shana Nys Dambrot by Osceola Refetoff


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