The End #37

Ed Ruscha

The writer and curator Alexandra Schwartz has noted that Ruscha was an enthusiastic moviegoer as a child in Oklahoma City, and that: ‘Upon arriving in Los Angeles in the late 1950s, he continued to frequent the cinema, his favorites being old Hollywood movies’; the artist confirms this, saying: ‘Old movies, because of their age, were appealing to me. The imagery that comes from it and the flaws and scratches all became part of my interest in the whole thing. They are moving pictures. It’s a profound medium, not unlike painting. Painting is all static but movies … they move.’ (Quoted in Schwartz 2010, p.92.)

The End #37 depicts a film strip at the closing credits of a motion picture, complete with celluloid scratches and the text ‘End’. The work initially looks like a close-up representation of an actual piece of film; however, the sprocket perforations and soundtrack which run down a film strip’s edges are missing. The work therefore mimics film as it has been projected onto a cinema screen. The bright blue acrylic background undermines the drawing’s suggestion of celluloid; nonetheless it references the forceful beam of a film projector illuminating dark cinematic space.

Ruscha's artistic identity is intimately entwined with Los Angeles and its film industry, his work taking inspiration from the sprawling west coast metropolis and its role as producer of Hollywood myth and fantasy. Informed by the look and feel of film, The End #37 provokes an array of cinematic associations and memories. This work is related to a number of different paintings, prints and drawings that Ruscha executed during the 1990s and 2000s, all incorporating the text ‘The End’, "End" or even "Fin". The curator Ralph Rugoff’s description of Ruscha’s 1991 large-scale painting The End (The Museum of Modern Art, New York) confirms the close similarities between works in the series; it states that The End is: ‘one of a series of canvases that portray scratched and scarred end titles from old movies, pay[ing] tribute to the imminent obsolescence of film technology. Its split composition presents fragments of two successive film frames, featuring the title phrase in a Gothic typeface … the distressed surfaces of the film frames evoke the reality of material decay.’ (Rugoff 2009, pp.23–4.) The Old English typeface, similar to that used on the masthead of The New York Times, can also be seen ‘The End #1' of 1993, in Tate, London (Tate T07512) . The End #37 is distinguished from these works by its thin, serif typeface, which is similarly old-fashioned in appearance, and is thus closely related to The End #40, also in the Tate (Tate AR00064)

The writer Mary Richards has also discussed the artist’s engagement with cinematic subject matter in ‘The End’ series, stating: ‘Just as Ruscha is interested in the “object” quality of words, these works show a fascination for the material aspects of cinema. The idea of “scratches on the film” recalls 1960s works by experimental film-makers such as Stan Brakhage and Bruce Conner, whose scratched, painted and collaged negatives created extraordinary visual effects.’ (Richards 2008, p.119.) Richards thus links Ruscha’s interest in the physical properties of film, a medium increasingly obsolete in the face of digital video and other movie-making technologies, to experimental film works contemporaneous with the very beginning of Ruscha’s career, when film was a flourishing medium of newly-discovered artistic potential.

Abridged and adapted with thanks to Tate Gallery.

Ed Ruscha (b. 1937)
The End #37
Acrylic, ink and surface abrasion on museum board
24 x 30 in : 61.0 x 76.2 cm
Signed and dated lower right
Acquired directly from the artist; Acquired from Sprüth Magers by the previous owner
Available for sale, please enquire for price


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