Mason Williams, Sunflower, 1967. Production still for an unfinished film.

“Double Standard: Ed Ruscha & Mason Williams, 1956–1971 (Part 1)”

Alden Projects™

Mason Williams, Sunflower, 1967. Production still for an unfinished film.

Legend has it that in 1956 an eighteen-year-old Ed Ruscha set out solo from Oklahoma City in a customized Ford, taking the fabled Route 66 to Los Angeles (passing twenty-six gasoline stations along the way), where he would study at the Chouinard Art Institute (now CalArts) en route to elevating urban graphic vernaculars to the status of art. It’s a tidy account of a no doubt messy affair. Of course, the factual distillations and narrative compressions enabling such myths of origin are, necessarily, founded on omission. Case in point: Riding alongside Ruscha on his move to LA was childhood friend Mason Williams, with whom Ruscha collaborated, on and off, over the next decade and a half. Together they talked up and produced some seminal pieces of West Coast Conceptual Pop, including several key works in Ruscha’s early oeuvre, until Williams, also a musician, composer, and comedy

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