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2006 11 25
Parking Lots As Art

Ed Ruscha, Parking Lots (6), 1967/99

Richard Linklater, still from the filmWaking Life, 2001

In 1960, American conceptual/pop artist Ed Ruscha finished art school in LA. That same year, Texan filmmaker Richard Linklater was born. In 1967, the year that I was born, Ruscha made the unpreposessing art book, Thirtyfour Parking Lots in Los Angeles. In 198-something, I first encountered Ruscha's art books while attending art school at NSCAD. My initial reaction to "Thirtyfour Parking Lots in Los Angeles" was a rush of relief. I recently had a similar experience watching Richard Linklater's film "Waking Life."

Try this: Ed Ruscha is to Joseph Kosuth what Richard Linklater is to Larry Clark.

The thing that really struck me while watching "Waking Life" was how we are still turning over the bleak homogeny of modernist urban planning with a sort of questing bewilderment. Ruscha's photographs of parking lots and swimming pools had a bemused humour to them, like, "guess what folks, there's actuallly content in this!" Linklater's film struck a similar chord. Both go beyond the abject alienation angle to a real humanist commitment to ideas. In Linklater's case it's almost embarrassing (Douglas Coupland, for example, plays it more cool...except for his little book Life After God which I just read ...and loved). Ruscha was more suave as well, but he was also closer to the source, to a genuine formal modernist appreciation for the patterns made by empty parking lots.

Hal Foster: "...Ruscha has dampened his art in a way that nonetheless allows it to be distinctive: a deadpan-ness - funny, desolate, sometimes both - is conveyed in his homely shots of solitary gas stations or aerial images of empty parking lots..."

Richard Linkater: "One thing we’ve all learned is that the corporate father has no interest in you as an individual. So if people could be aware of that, and stay on their toes, adapt … that’s a good thing."

Metropolitain Museum of Art's Timeline of Art History: "Ruscha's books paid tribute to and slyly parodied the romantic vision of the road epitomized by writers and artists such as Jack Kerouac and Robert Frank, while also subverting the rapidly expanding market for what the artist described as "limited edition, individual, hand processed photos."
[email this story] Posted by Sally mcKay on 11/25 at 06:01 PM

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