Standard Station

Ed Ruscha

From its first appearance in his artist's book Twentysix Gasoline Stations and its subsequent translation into a masterpiece of American painting in 1964 as Standard Station, Amarillo, Texas, the Standard gasoline station is arguably Ruscha's most iconic image.

Its stations ubiquitous across 20th Century America, John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil was at one point the largest company in the world. Even when broken up by the federal government into seven smaller companies, “Baby Standard” gasoline stations continued to line Route 66 from Los Angeles to Ruscha’s family home in Oklahoma City until 1984, when the brand became Chevron. Ruscha recorded several of these stations in his photographic book Twentysix Gasoline Stations, which promoted his interest in closely observing the banal and the mundane, the taken-for-granted and the overlooked. Taking the rather unremarkable source photograph, Ruscha transforms it with a radical foreshortening which centres the composition around a plunging diagonal line. In this way, and with a gorgeously subtle play on words, he creates his idealised “standard” gasoline station.

The first Standard Station screenprint, made in 1966, of which this example is an early trial proof, was followed in 1969 by Mocha Standard, Cheese Mold Standard with Olive and Double Standard, all variations on the 1966 forerunner and printed in the same size from the same screens. This is how the subject was left for 42 years until, in 2011, Ruscha decided to revisit the theme with Ghost Station, which was now considered one of the most famous images in Post-War art. A measure of how lionised the image of the Standard Station had become was shown when Christie’s offered Ruscha’s painting Burning Gas Station at auction in 2007. The painting sold for just under $7 million and held the record for the most expensive work by the artist to have been sold at auction, until that figure was surpassed by SMASH, 1963, which exceeded $30 million in 2014.

Engberg and Philpott record 66 proofs of Standard Station, however to date only 5 of these have ever appeared on the open market, of which this is one. This example is printed without the split fountain screen for the light blue and orange background, and explores a very elegant arrangement instead, using only 5 screens for red, light and dark grey, dark blue and white.

Ed Ruscha (b.1937)
Standard Station
Screenprint in colours, on commercial paper
49.5 x 94.0 cm : 19 1/2 x 37 ins
64.8 x 101.6 cm : 25 1/2 x 40 ins
An undesignated proof, without the light blue and orange split fountain screen, aside from the signed and numbered edition of 50, not signed
Art Krebs, Los Angeles
A gift from the artist to the previous owner
Engberg 5


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