Ruscha Gets Juicy
Splashy and bright, Ed Ruscha’s Made in California conjures a tall glass of orange juice and the storied citrus orchards so integral to Golden State mythology. Published in 1971 by Grunwald Graphic Arts Foundation at the University of California, Los Angeles, and printed by Cirrus Editions, this juicy work cheekily references both its own creation and the commercial tropes that weave through Ruscha’s career.
Created to commemorate the 1971 exhibition Made in California at UCLA’s Dickson Art Center, Ruscha’s Made in California was printed during an especially prolific time for the young artist. Fresh off a stay in London, and, before that, a two-month fellowship with Tamarind Lithography Workshop, Ruscha was coming into his own both as a skilled printmaker and decidedly Californian artist. Like so many of his text paintings and prints, Made in California embodies the artist’s creative concerns with an uncanny economy — in this case, the technical possibilities of printmaking, contradictions in surfaces (like liquids, actual or imitated, on paper), fluidity of text and image, commercial culture/advertising, and the ethos and lore of California as apex of the American West.
“The words function in these prints as found objects,” Siri Engeberg writes for the catalog raisonné Edward Ruscha: Editions 1959-1999, “made more palpable by the letterforms’ trompe l’oeil rendering, which creates a sense of their having been spelled from spilled liquids…” At the time Made in California was made, Ruscha had prior experimented with such substances as Pepto Bismol, tomato paste, chutney, perfume, and even his own blood. And while Made in California contains no actual orange juice, Ruscha employed his skill as an “extraordinary colorist” to closely approximate the precise color.
Perfectly in line with the print’s bold declaration of origin is Ruscha’s choice of printer — having met and worked with Jean Milant during his time at Tamarind, Ruscha again partnered with the printmaker but this time at his newly established Cirrus Editions and Gallery. “Unlike other workshops in the Los Angeles area,” Engeberg notes, “Cirrus made it a priority from the outset to print and publish editions with California artists.” As such, Made in California maintains a special sort of pedigree — and may even emerge as an ur or meta- Ruscha, an overarching reference to the artist himself as well as the myriad California subjects that comprise his work, from Route 66 and Sun-Maid raisins to some Los Angeles apartments and the Hollywood sign.