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Destination: Ruscha

After traveling thousands of miles on the trail of Ed Ruscha’s work, it was fascinating to learn firsthand about the influences that inspire it.  While watching him describe the “cabinet of curiosities” theme of a recent European exposition he designed (a model of which is shown below), I wondered if it was inspired by the souvenir shops characteristic of Route 66.   However, when I asked Ruscha if Route 66 history continues to influence his work, he explained that the broader theme of “the open road,” rather than Route 66 travel specifically, was a “great inspiration.”  He even described a recent LA-to-Chicago journey by Amtrak rather than asphalt as particularly inspirational.  The city of Los Angeles, and the contrast between it and the surrounding landscape, seemed to be particularly intriguing to him.  He claimed to be inspired by the “open roads” and “little towns” of the “vast and majestic” American West.  However, he also said that he “found something curious” about Los Angeles, and claimed that it was a place of “great mystery and and romance.”  I found it interesting that he built an electric car (nickenamed “Leadbelly” for its heavy lead-acid batteries) about fifteen years ago, as Neil Young, another artist influenced by the American West, is currently working on the conversion of a classic Lincoln to electric power.  These projects represent an intriguing fusion of twentieth-century cultural influences with twentieth-century social responsibility.      IMG_1472