New York

Edward Ruscha

Whitney Museum of American Art

Lemmy Caution passes by a slot machine. He drops in change where a sign says, “Place coin here.” Suddenly out shoots a card on which is printed, “Thank you.” Dumbfounded, he flings the card in the air.

The scene is from Jean-Luc Godard’s Alphaville, a movie that stresses language as a system of social control and the way idiosyncratic images resist the computer because the computer programs out all traces of ambiguity, valorizing communication as an end in itself. Poetic visions as the refugees of homo sapiens become the radical opponents to this technocracy.

Ed Ruscha’s work freezes fragments of gross (versus net) vocabulary to redeem the verbiage that we traffic in as just so many daily items. In it uncharted and anarchic aspects of cultural murmurings “glance back.” Each phrase speaks from vernacular milieus; none can be traced to an author, yet all have been spoken. Ruscha takes them

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