Ed Ruscha Curates at Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

By Emmy Lee | Posted on October 5th, 2012

Ed Ruscha is one of my favourite artists. His clinical yet seductive photographs of the Sunset Strip, swimming pools, gas stations and parking lots have helped shape my mental image of LA and his droll text-based paintings drip laconic cool. I’m always interested to know what work artists I admire admire themselves and recently an exhibition at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna opened which allows us some insight into works Ruscha finds interesting from their holdings. The Ancients Stole All Our Great Ideas is the first exhibition in a series inviting internationally renowned artists to curate from the museum’s collection. Visiting the museum 4 times in 18 months to rummage through everything, even their storage rooms, Ruscha chose 35 works from the hundreds of thousands in their collection to install focusing on two Brueghels – The Fight between Carnival and Lent, 1560, and Children’s Games, 1560, works he describes as “the anchor”. To this, he has added Arcimboldo’s Summer, 1563, a painting of a face constructed from a bounty of fruits and vegetables as well as a book of 16th-century calligraphic templates. He also borrowed from the Natural History Museum including a stuffed coyote (“I wanted something from my native land”), crystal balls which served the lofty purpose of cooling the hands of 17th-century aristocrats, and a piece of a meteorite found in Arizona in the 19th century. The joy of having someone like Ruscha curate is that he is not bound by chronology or tradition – he has created atypical placements and juxtapositions, revealing the way context can completely change the way you view a work.


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