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?“
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???