Ed Ruscha, Robert Indiana, and Andy Warhol will be the focus of a new Pop Art gallery on the second floor of the Oklahoma City Museum of Art (OKCMOA) opening on January 30, 2022. Two newly acquired lithographs by Ruscha will be featured – “Boom Town” (2020) and “Turbo Tears” (2020).
“Turbo Tears” is a Museum purchase with funds from the Gene Barth Acquisitions Endowment and the Oklahoma Art League, and “Boom Town” was a gift of the artist.
“Oklahoma City’s Ed Ruscha is one of the most influential visual artists in American history,” said Mayor David Holt. “He’s ours and we need to own that – literally. When his first solo Oklahoma exhibition wrapped last summer at Contemporary, many of us felt that Oklahoma City needs to be intentional about permanently acquiring more of Ed’s work. Ultimately, we want Oklahoma City to be a place where Ed’s work is uniquely celebrated. I’m thrilled that the Oklahoma City Museum of Art is taking on that charge with these new acquisitions. And this is just the start of this endeavor. Congrats to OKCMOA for this important step, and for all they do to build our city’s cultural profile.”
“Prior to this acquisition, there was only a single work by Ruscha in our museum’s collection,” said Michael Anderson, Ph.D., OKCMOA President and CEO. “This acquisition will allow the Museum to show signature work by the city’s most prominent artist much more frequently. We are extremely grateful to Ed Ruscha for his generous donation.”
Born in Omaha, Nebraska in 1937, Ruscha moved to Oklahoma City with his family at a young age, living there for 15 years before settling in California in 1956. He has worked in painting, printmaking, drawing, photography, and film. Ruscha references his ties to Oklahoma frequently in his work.
“Boom Town” is also the name of author Sam Anderson’s popular 2018 book about Oklahoma City. The text in the print is written in Boy Scout Utility Modern, a font invented by Ruscha. Four-color lithography and embossment were used to achieve the lush, tonal surface of this print. The work is one of a dozen limited-edition prints commissioned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art to celebrate its 150th anniversary.
“Turbo Tears,” like many of Ruscha’s works, uses an eye-catching type font that is reminiscent of straightforward advertising slogans. Beginning in the 1960s, Ruscha started creating word paintings, images that consisted of a single word or nonsensical phrase, often against a simple monochromatic backdrop.
The meaning of the words “turbo tears” is unclear: Ruscha has said in the past that he sometimes used a dictionary or would jot down interesting things he heard. This recent print was created to mark the 21st anniversary of the Tate Modern in London.
“Pop artists frequently incorporated text into their works, inspired by advertisements and commercial products,” said Bryn Schockmel, Ph.D., OKCMOA curator. “Using the mechanical silkscreen process, The Factory (Warhol’s studio) could produce multiple versions of a work with precise lettering and recognizable products. The precision found in his ‘Campbell’s Soup II’ series is also seen in the prints of Indiana, many of which feature stenciled-like letters, and in the work of Ruscha, who similarly incorporates (seemingly nonsensical) words into his art.”
The new Pop Art gallery will be on view as part of OKCMOA’s permanent collection installation until July 24, 2022. The gallery will include over a dozen works including the two newly acquired lithographs by Ruscha and eight screenprints by Warhol.
Credits: Ed Ruscha, Boom Town, 2020. Color lithograph with debossing, 15 x 15 in. Oklahoma City Museum of Art. Gift of the artist, 2021.054 © Ed Ruscha