Born in Omaha, Nebraska, Ed Ruscha became a prominent figure in the fine arts in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. In 2004, he was selected as the solo representative of the United States to the Venice Biennale* in June, 2005.
Working from a studio in Hollywood, California, he did work that includes painting, graphic art, photography, writing, and filmmaking. He is especially known for his witty paintings with calligraphy* and numeric messages that reflect urban imagery of American life, especially the West and Southern California. Titles of his works include US 66, (1960; Twenty-Six Gasoline Stations, (1964); Real Estate Opportunities, (1970); and Honey, I Twisted Through More Danmed Traffic Today (1970).
He studied art at the Chouinard Art Institute* in Los Angeles between 1956 and 1960, and then served in the United States Navy, traveled in Europe, and taught as artist-in-residence at numerous universities and art schools.
Some of his earliest letter paintings were done in his Paris hotel room from sketches he made of subway signs and other recognizable pop-culture images. Many of his backgrounds were painterly*, meaning heavy with impasto*. He has created numerous books featuring photographs that document American gasoline stations, houses, and swimming pools, among other subjects. Much of this subject matter came from his trips across America, beginning in 1956 when he left his hometown of Oklahoma City and drove west along Route 66 to Los Angeles, a trip he was to repeat many times.
A special 2001 traveling exhibition of his work: “Edward Ruscha” was held June-September 1 at The Hirshhorn Museum in Washington DC, and from November 20 to June 3, 2001, was at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. Beginning January, 2006, a traveling exhibition, “Ed Ruscha: Photographer”, began touring Europe with an opening in Paris at the Musee Jeu de Paume.