Lao Tzu famously wrote that “the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” But then again, the Chinese scholar wasn’t crossing the Colorado Rockies in a beat-up jalopy or fixing flat tires.
For Ed Ruscha, a cross-country jaunt from his native Oklahoma to California along Route 66 back in 1956 was the first step that inspired the pop art pioneer’s images of the American landscape, from corner gas stations to mountain peaks covered with his trademark text reminiscent of the billboards littering the roadways.
The Los Angeles artist’s love of the road trip has led to his exploration of Jack Kerouac’s Beat classic On the Road, which chronicles Kerouac’s experiences tripping across the winding asphalt between the United States and Mexico during the 1940s. It’s no surprise, because both Kerouac and Ruscha revolutionized the use of words to document the rapidly changing nature of the American cultural landscape. In 2009, Ruscha created a limited-edition artist book version of Kerouac’s classic novel and has since conceived a new body of paintings and drawings inspired by its feverishly written passages.
At the Museum of Contemporary Art (770 NE 125th St., North Miami), “Ed Ruscha: On the Road” brings the two legendary figures of art and language together, transporting viewers back to a time when they didn’t need a GPS to discover a new roadside attraction. Organized by the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, the show features six large paintings on canvas and ten drawings, each boasting text from Kerouac’s timeless tome and reminding that the journey to this aesthetic union begins with that first step toward MOCA.
Tuesdays-Sundays. Starts: May 26. Continues through Sept. 2, 2012