Back to the Drawing Board


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Ed Ruscha, Art, and Design in the 1960s

Jennifer Quick


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The first book to consider the importance of commercial art and design for Ed Ruscha’s work

Ed Ruscha (b. 1937) emerged onto the Los Angeles art scene with paintings that incorporated consumer products, such as Spam and Sun-Maid raisins. In this revelatory book, Jennifer Quick looks at and beyond the consumer imagery in Ruscha’s work, examining it through the tools, techniques, and habits of mind of commercial art and design. Quick shows how his training and early work as a commercial artist helped him become an incisive commentator on the presence and role of design in the modern world.

Back to the Drawing Board explores how Ruscha mobilized commercial design techniques of scale, paste-up layout, and perspective as he developed his singular artistic style. Beginning with his formative design education and focusing on the first decade of his career, Quick analyzes previously unseen works from the Ruscha archives along - side his celebrated paintings, prints, and books, demonstrating how Ruscha’s engagement with commercial art has been foundational to his practice. Through this insightful lens, Quick affirms Ruscha as a powerful and witty observer of the vast network of imagery that permeates visual culture and offers new perspectives on Pop and conceptual art.

Jennifer Quick was previously research curator in Special Collections at the Harvard Business School’s Baker Library and the John R. and Barbara Robinson Family Associate Research Curator at the Harvard Art Museums.

“Ruscha has captured the zeitgeist of American culture for decades, and Jennifer Quick helps us understand that an essential part of his talent for representing the popular, the spectacular, and the alluring is connected to his lifelong fascination with design.”—David Brody, Parsons School of Design, The New School

“Jennifer Quick’s approach is timely and compelling, given the high profile of design in contemporary culture, but it is her close reading of Ruscha's complex play with materials and form that ultimately make this such a rewarding account of his art.”—Ken D. Allan, Seattle University

"Back to the Drawing Board is a sharp reminder that Ruscha’s art began with the know-how and materials of pre-digital advertising, signage, and package design.”—D. J. Waldie, On the Seawall

Winner of a Wyeth Foundation for American Art Publication Grant from CAA
ISBN: 9780300256925
Publication Date: May 17, 2022
208 pages, 7 x 10
95 color + 37 b/w illus.
Analog Culture

Printer's Proofs from the Schneider/Erdman Photography Lab, 1981–2001

Edited by Jennifer Quick; With contributions by Robin Kelse

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