Twentysix Gasoline Stations – Ed Ruscha (1963)


Twentysix Gasoline Stations is the first artist’s book by the American pop artist Ed Ruscha. Published in April 1963 on his own imprint National Excelsior Press, it is often considered to be the first modern artist’s book,] and has become famous as a precursor and a major influence on the emerging artist’s book culture, especially in America. The book delivers exactly what its title promises, reproducing 26 photographs of gasoline stations next to captions indicating their brand and location. From the first service station, ‘Bob’s Service’ in Los Angeles where Ruscha lived, the book follows a journey back to Oklahoma City where he had grown up and where his mother still lived. The last image is of a Fina gasoline station in Groom, Texas, which Ruscha has suggested should be seen as the beginning of the return journey, ‘like a coda’. Originally printed in a numbered edition of 400, a second edition of 500 was published in 1967 and a third of 3000 in 1969. Neither of these later editions was numbered. It has been suggested that these reprints were a deliberate attempt to flood the market in order to maintain the book’s status as a cheap, mass-produced commodity. The book originally sold for $3.50. … Dated 1962 in the foreword and dedicated to Patty Callahan, the book comprises twenty-six photographs of various dimensions and proportions; most are laid out on a single page with the text facing the image; some go across the double spread, a few are placed next to each other. Three images are taken at night, including one of Tucumcari, New Mexico, that appears to have been taken from a moving car. But for three people walking across the forecourt on the Sunset Strip, a man getting out of his car at Flagstaff, Arizona and a man looking under his hood at Lipton, Arizona, there are no people present. There are no cars visible in some of the photographs and almost all are taken from the other side of the highway. All of the gasoline stations are on Route 66, a road that had already been mythologized by the TV series Route 66 and in Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, and later reappeared as a motif in Dennis Hopper’s Easy Rider. The order that the stations appear is almost the same as their position on the route west-east, with five stations moved out of order. …”
Wikipedia
Tate
NPR: In Ed Ruscha’s Work, A City Sits For Its Portrait (Audio)


Union, Needles, California (1962)

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