To coincide with the major exhibition at MOMA, ED RUSCHA NOW THEN,
Zucker Art Books presents the collection of Artist’s Books given to Henry Hopkins, influential curator and museum director, and Ed Ruscha’s earliest supporter.
In 1963, a young Ed Ruscha asked Cunningham Press in Alhambra, California, to print 400 copies of an engaging little book featuring 26 of his snapshots of gasoline stations on US Highway 66 between Oklahoma City and Los Angeles. With that risky undertaking (the publication was rejected by the Library of Congress), Ruscha paved the way for the modern artist’s book, spawning countless homages and imitations by other artists, which continue to proliferate.
A young proud new artist on the scene in Los Angeles created these “COMPLIMENTS OF THE AUTHOR” cards to accompany books he gave to people he liked/loved. Henry Hopkins was one of those special people in the early 60’s, actually a very important person for Ed Ruscha. Not only did he purchase his first painting for himself and the LA County Museum but as coordinator of the 25th Venice Biennale in 1970 he was instrumental in the birth of the famous Chocolate Room. The books from the Hopkins collection are distinguished by dedications to Hopkins by the artist, a testament to the close relationship between the young Ruscha and his earliest supporter.
Excerpt of Interview with Hopkins in 1995 on Chocolate Room:
So we sat down and started talking about a project, and he said, "Well, what I really want to do is a chocolate room." And I said, "You want to do— What do you want to do?" [laughs] He said, "I really want to do a chocolate room." And so he explained to me. So in this one portion of the gallery—about one-fourth of the U.S. pavilion space—he silk-screened sheets of Nestle's chocolate, you know, just through a silk screen screen. There was no image. He would just screen the screen covered with chocolate. He did about—I don't how many hundreds of sheets—I'll say four hundred sheets and then attached them all to the wall in an overlapping way, like a California bungalow's shingles, okay? They were there, and it's of course about—I don't know—120 degrees and humid beyond belief in the middle of the Venetian summer. You'd walk in that room, and this permeation of this horrible smell of Nestle's chocolate would just knock you practically out of the room, [laughs] And after about the second or third day was up, kids found out that they're going to lick their finger and make marks in the chocolate. They started immediately making initials and this and that. I said, "Ed"—who went off to London then to do something else—"what do we do about this?" He said, "Let them do it. That's fine. That's what it's about." So we kept it up for about two weeks, and then finally the ants got in.
Hopkins comments on the actual books that are part of the Hopkins collection:
“In early 1963, Ruscha showed me his first book, Twentysix Gasoline Stations, which he had assembled during 1962 and had published under the logo “A National Excelsior Publication" in an edition of four hundred numbered copies. He presented me with a hand-boxed volume. I admit that I was puzzled by this new direction. Books were supposed to be full of meaningful words and/or exceptional photographs. This funny little number had only identifying captions (the trade name of the gasoline station and its geographical location) and run-of-the-mill, self-made snapshots with plenty of road in front. I was amazed that Ed had invested what little money he had in such a venture.
Scanning the book now, one can't help but think of Jack Kerouac's On the Road or Dennis Hopper's Easy Rider, even though the beat generation was over and the hippies had not yet emerged. Twenty six Gasoline Stations documents a Route-66 trip in reverse, from California back home to Oklahoma. The gasoline stations are represented in west-to-east sequence, from California to Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma, and all are along Route 66. It may or may not be interesting to note that within each state the sequence is out of order with the road map. The final photographic image is out of geographical sequence but sets up a Duchampian pun within a pun, being a Fina station in Groom, Texas.
Ruscha uses a similar device in his second book, Various Small Fires and Milk, 1964, where, after fifteen burning images--from matches to gas stoves -the final photograph presents a glass of milk, allowing you to contemplate the fire in your stomach.
It wasn't until the publication of Every Building on the Sunset Strip, 1966, that Ruscha's books began to develop an underground following. I remember visiting his studio in 1965, where he was boxed in with stack after stack of unsold volumes. It is indicative of his tenacity and belief that he invested so much time and money before his publications caught on. By now, the earliest books have been republished several times.”
Excerpt from the foreword to the book The Works of Ed Ruscha, by Henry Hopkins, 1982 for the SFMoma
List of works in the collection:
1 - TWENTY SIX GASOLINE STATIONS. Los Angeles: National Excelsior Publication, 1962 * Inscribed “Hello Henry from Ed Ruscha 5/17/63”. Copy # 9
2 - VARIOUS SMALL FIRES AND MILK. Los Angeles: self-published (printed by Anderson, Ritchie & Simon), 1964. * Inscription by Ed “give to Henry” written on compliments of author card laid in
3 - SOME LOS ANGELES APARTMENTS. Los Angeles: self-published, 1970. * Signed “Ed Ruscha”
4 - EVERY BUILDING ON THE SUNSET STRIP. Los Angeles: self-published, 1966. * Inscribed “Hey Henry- Best, Ed Ruscha Oct. 66”
5 – THIRTY FOUR PARKING LOTS IN LOS ANGELES. Los Angeles: self-published, 1967. * Inscribed “To Henry, Best Wishes, Ed Ruscha” and includes an invitation to a book signing party and preview of the painting "LA County Museum on Fire," from the Irving Blum Gallery, on January 28th, 1968.
6 - ROYAL ROAD TEST. By Mason Williams, Edward Ruscha and Patrick Blackwell. Los Angeles: self-published, 1967. * Signed by both Mason Williams and Ed Ruscha
7 - BUSINESS CARDS. By Billy Al Bengston and Edward Ruscha. Los Angeles: self-published, 1968.* Signed by both Billy Al Bengston and Ed Ruscha
8 - NINE SWIMMING POOLS AND A BROKEN GLASS. Los Angeles: self-published, 1968. * Inscribed “For Henry! Ed Ruscha”
9 - CRACKERS. Hollywood: Heavy Industry Publications, self-published, 1969 * Inscribed “For Henry down in Texas! Love, Ed”
10 – STAINS. Hollywood: Heavy Industry Publications, self-published, 1969 *Signed
11 – BABYCAKES WITH WEIGHTS. [Los Angeles: the artist], 1970. * with “compliments from author” card laid in
12- REAL ESTATE OPPORTUNITIES. Los Angeles: self-published, 1970.* Signed “Ed Ruscha”
13 - A FEW PALM TREES. Hollywood: Heavy Industry Publications, self-published, 1971. * Inscribed “Best wishes Henry and Jan (Butterfield), Ed”
14 - DUTCH DETAILS. Deventer, The Netherlands: Octopus Foundation within the framework of Sonsbeek 71, 1971. * Signed “Ed Ruscha” with “compliments of Author” card laid in
15 - RECORDS. Hollywood: Heavy Industry Publications,1971.* Signed “Ed Ruscha”
16 - COLORED PEOPLE. Los Angeles, self-published,1972. * Signed “Ed Ruscha”
17- HARD LIGHT. Los Angeles: self-published. 1978 * Signed “Ed Ruscha” and “Lawrence Weiner”
Reference: Edward Ruscha: Editions 1959-1999. Catalogue Raisonné. Siri Engberg, editor. 2 volumes. Minneapolis: Walker Art Center, 1999.