Ed Ruscha on LA’s duality

"I think I'll..." by Ed Ruscha, on loan to the White House.
"I think I'll..." by Ed Ruscha, on loan to the White House.

Los Angeles artist Ed Ruscha is one of several artists whose work is hanging in the Obama White House, according to today’s NY Times. Museums in Washington DC have loaned the works.

A luminary in the early years of the LA art scene in the 1960s (and a towering international figure ever since,) Ruscha’s work draws on imagery from the urban landscape of  southern California, although in a recent interview, for London’s Daily Telegraph, he’s of two minds about the city where he’s made his home since 1956.

‘It puzzles me that people can come to Los Angeles and actually get excited about it.’ But he also admits, a little grudgingly, that there is a ‘certain neurotic anxiety’ about the city that nourishes him. ‘It’s oily about the edges,’ he explains. ‘It’s gritty, but at the same time it promises something. I don’t know what, the fountain of youth, maybe.’

And then later, reflecting on his decision to move to LA from where he grew up in Oklahoma, ”’It had an irresistible flavor to it that drew me out here. California had sunlight and jazz… It was all glamorous to me, the life of an artist. It had its high moments, the only thing it didn’t promise you was a living. But I was 18 years old, so that wasn’t scary. It didn’t matter.’’