SOAPY SMITH (1996)
About this artwork
In this work Ruscha has reversed the stencil so that the text appears backwards and it is even more difficult to decipher due to the letters being stretched vertically. Indeed, the only way to read it is to stand directly below the centre point of the work and look up. This way of engaging with the work relates to a commission Ruscha received to create a seventy-panel mural in the Central Denver Public Library, where “the idea [is] that these panels would be way up in the air and that you could walk underneath them. Then, you can position yourself to actually read those things.” Throughout his oeuvre, Ruscha explores language and American West Coast culture centered on Hollywood. Here, ‘Soapy Smith’ refers to one of the most legendary figures in the American Wild West.
- title: SOAPY SMITH
- accession number: AR00061
- artist: Ed RuschaAmerican (born 1937)
- gallery: In Storage
- object type: Work on paper
- materials: Acrylic paint on paper
- date created: 1996
- measurements: 36.60 x 29.00 cm (framed: 52.00 x 43.50 x 4.00 cm)
- credit line: ARTIST ROOMS National Galleries of Scotland and Tate. Acquired jointly through The d'Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008
- copyright: © ED RUSCHA
Ruscha was born in Omaha, Nebraska. He grew up in Oklahoma and studied in Los Angeles. Ruscha's work is diverse and experimental. Since childhood he has been interested in commercial art, in the form of advertising, comic books and magazines. This led to his first paintings featuring words, produced in the late 1950s. Ruscha is equally known for his books of deadpan photographs, such as 'Twenty-six Gasoline Stations' of 1963 and volumes of banal photographs of buildings. In his work Ruscha aims to challenge accepted concepts of language and meaning, often by combining unrelated words and images.