Saturday, January 9, 2021

Ed Ruscha, The Most Famous Catholic Artist Few Catholics Know

By Menachem Wecker
Detail of "Evil" by Ed Ruscha, screenprint on wood veneer, 1973, 19 7/8" x 30 1/8", featured in "Ed Ruscha: OKLA," running Feb. 18 to July 5, 2021 at Oklahoma Contemporary (Courtesy of the artist and Gagosian)
If Ed Ruscha's name is unfamiliar, you're in extensive company. Since 2015, Google searches for obsolete mimeographs have outpaced those for the Catholic-born octogenarian, whom museums practically venerate, from the London Tate to Los Angeles' Broad. For those who extol price tags, a 1964 Ruscha oil painting sold in Nov. 2019 for nearly $52.5 million. Even less common, Oklahoma Contemporary addresses Ruscha's Catholicism. Of 70 exhibited works, 10 appear in a section named for one of them, "51% Angel, 49% Devil" (1984). Catholic ceremony and visual icons have affected him subtly and appear occasionally in his work. "I am a confirmed atheist today, but the church helped me get where I am." [More