Did you know Ed Ruscha is an author? If you didn’t, well, now you know. If you did, well, then you are aware that he is only an author in the sense that “he made books,” not that he slaved over a desk piling words atop of each other to create a narrative. The books he penned (“penned”) were art books that he self-published and self-distributed, in true keeping with his LA bad boy persona. Between 1962 and 1978, he actually created a small grouping of “artist’s books,” which became known as his “sixteen books.”
The books that he created spanned subjects like fire to real estate to parking lots to swimming pools (but only nine of them) to gasoline stations, which was the subject of his first book. The books were quite stark and revolved around brief text and photography, all done by Ruscha himself. These were unheard of in his day, as they were such a departure from what an “art book” was perceived to be: they were documentary in style and almost like tangents for him, forays into photography. They inspired many artists who came after him, inspirations that can still be seen to this day.
The University of Irvine has a show up through early February that sees these sixteen books on display at their library. The books are a few from their 400+ Artists’ Books Collection, which speaks very highly of their collection. For more on the show, check out their website. If you don’t feel like making the trek out there–that’s okay: you can read a lot about this era of bookmaking for Ruscha online. And, if you are really feeling like you have to get your hands on one of them, Vincent Borrelli actually has a good amount of them online for sale (which are, of course, in the thousand dollar plus price range.