Monday, May 19, 2008

Pronounced ROO-SHAY

In Ed Ruscha’s most familiar words paintings, he turns words into objects. They are given a scale, sometimes in comparison to an object, they are given weight too. Often he creates conflicts between the word, the color, what it’s compared to, a paradox that is two-fold because these word-objects are, in fact, but painted illusions.

What the words say don’t reference high culture, they’re more common words, expressions, conversational utterances that he plucks from his diaries. This may be part of the reason why he's sometimes called a Pop artist.

In a1973 interview, Howardena Pindell asks,“Why are you attracted to words like “Annie,” “carp,” “lisp,””sing?“

Ruscha responds:

Because I love the language. Words have temperatures to me. When they reach a certain point and become hot words, then they appeal to me. “Synthetic” is a very hot word. Sometimes I have a dream that if a word gets too hot and too appealing, it will boil apart, and I won’t be able to red or think of it. Usually I catch them before they get too hot. I have, though, caught words in the dictionary instead of had them come to me via flashes.

All this makes the work sound easy. It’s not. I never can say I really get a piece.

For example, the more recent mountain series (Above, The Mountain, 1998). Wha???


Dana said...

I've never heard of Ruscha before today, but on first impression, it seems that he's delving into his own visceral response to a word, attached and unattached to its actual meaning or utility. Sort of like the way certain people experience music visually or mathematically (something I've never experienced but seems entirely fascinating).

I don't think I tend to feel words in temperature, but Ruscha's explanation reminds me of my own visceral reaction to words -- the anthropomoriphic aspects of which were strongest when I was a child. A new word somehow had a life of its own -- learning it was sort of like meeting a new person. The actual meaning did not necessarily match the anticipated meeting. Sometimes the pronunciation was its own mystery. There was a tenuous loveliness to attempting to use it in conversation without revealing that you weren't yet very intimate with the word. Could the word be insulted? And you could have different relationships with different words. Some were stalwart expressions. Some were simply delicious passing through your mouth. Some were boring and mundane. Some felt like pure humor in and of themselves. Some were ugly and unpleasant, full of sour darkness. Some hinted of worlds yet undiscovered.

Molly Stevens said...

Dana the poet.

Funny, as much as I work with words, I really do not have a sensual relationship to them. I don't really consider them things.

This reminds me of a story I heard about Helen Keller. I'll try to post about it on Wednesday...

a_christian said...

Reminds me of a friend who had "grapheme" with colors and letters:

though I don't think it directly relates to what he's saying in the quote.

Molly Stevens said...

That is a trip, a-christian! Thanks for that.