Los Angeles

Edward Ruscha

Ferus Gallery

This artist has abandoned pictures of letters that turn into numbers for paintings of giant birds that turn into pencils. Without searching for meanings one can respond enthusiastically to the humor of the pictures. But if they are funny it is not because they are entertainment. Their implied depths are often grim, tantalizing and suggestive. Birds, which have been turning up often as subject matter in recent months, are potent if ambiguous symbols. For Morris Graves they have been religious, others have seen them standing for a free, untrammeled masculine ego. Birds are odd. They combine delicacy and toughness in a brainless desire to exist. Ruscha’s birds have Audubon-like literalness. He paints them bigger and with less skill and care than did the naturalist. They chase pencils which turn into glowworms. Pencils become birds’ bills and the birds will “sign anything” with them. One sleeps with a fish (fishwife?) whose chatter will not let him sleep. A crouching oriole drinks milk from a glass. An angry bird attacks a tipped glass because it’s “plaster, not milk.” One feels it might almost be a disservice to this work to “figure it out.” Its beguilements are so rewarding as they are.

––William Wilson