Ed Ruscha: Course of Empire

Ed Ruscha Course of Empire

Date(s): Jun 11, 2018 – Oct 7, 2018
Location: National Portrait Gallery, St. Martin's Pl, London, United Kingdom

See Ed Ruscha’s modern take on the cyclical nature of civilisation, evocative of Thomas Cole’s series of the same name

Ed Ruscha (1937–) has shaped the way we see the American landscape over the span of his influential six-decade career. Elegant, highly distilled, and often humorous, Ruscha’s work conveys a unique brand of visual American zen.

In 2005, Ruscha was asked to represent the United States at the 51st Venice Biennale. Dealing with the theme of “”progress, or the course of progress,”” Ruscha’s Biennale installation evoked Thomas Cole’s famous painting cycle of 1833–36, ‘The Course of Empire’, concurrently on display in the Ground Floor Galleries.

Unlike Cole’s grandiose vision of the rise and fall of a classical civilisation, Ruscha’s ‘Course of Empire’ focuses on the industrial buildings of Los Angeles – simple, box-like, utilitarian structures with no pretension to beauty but redolent of economic might and global reach.

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