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Arts of North America

Art created in North America includes objects made by native cultures of the present-day United States and Canada; paintings and decorative arts produced during colonial times; 18th- and 19th-century masterpieces; and the work of contemporary artists and photographers.

© Ed Ruscha / Courtesy Gagosian Gallery
American, born 1937
Untitled (#1) and Untitled (#2)
Acrylic on canvas

Each: 64 x 72 inches

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Museum purchase with funds provided by the
Caroline Wiess Law Accessions Endowment Fund

Arts of North America

Ed Ruscha’s landmark images of American culture incorporate graphic elements ubiquitous to the commercial realm. An innovator in the 1950s of the West Coast Pop movement, Ruscha transitioned away from the Pop Art sensibility in the 1960s and soon directed his focus to a more conceptual point of view as he began to explore the ways in which text and images influence meaning and interpretation.

In his Untitled (#1) and Untitled (#2) diptych, Ruscha exuberantly depicts the American sublime while subtly distorting such popular imagery with his use of text. On the left panel, Ruscha paints a crisp and monumental mountain peak with the letters “CO.” sprawled across its terrain; the image takes on an almost brochure-like quality as it welcomes tourists to take part in the rustic grandeur, presumably of Colorado. The right panel, however, offers an adverse scene, as an austere rooftop amputates the mountain peak and text, disturbing the serene landscape. Now the image appears congested, and the “CO.” alludes to Company in the commercial sense. With his jarring juxtapositions, Ruscha poignantly conveys the harm of modern industry’s appropriation of nature and satirizes the nation’s overconsumption.