“I fell into a job working for a book printer in Los Angeles. He taught me how to set type—metal type, by hand—and that was a learning experience for me, just being exposed to books and piles of paper, pinched together by binding. And somehow the simplicity of that affected me and work. And this printer was a letterpress printer, so I got into the beauty of the pressed letterforms and paper. Somehow that moved me along into doing books. And I didn’t necessarily have to repeat the letterpress idea, but books and pages and flipping of pages, just drove me crazy. I had to deal with it. I had this deep need to make some kind of book, and it didn’t matter what it was about. I just said to myself, ‘I have to make a book. Now is the time to make a book.’
So it sort of evolved, backwards and inside out. I had no logical thoughts behind it, and finally my mind went back to those times when I was either hitchhiking or riding across country, and US 66 and gasoline stations, and they were like belches in the landscape, and I just felt like I want to capture these things somehow, and maybe this is the excuse—to make a book. So it’s the idea of a book that came first and the second was this idea of gasoline stations.”
–Ed Ruscha, in a recent conversation with Paul Holdengraber at the New York Public Library. An exhibition (pictured) of Ruscha’s books, together with books and works of art by more than 100 contemporary artists that respond to his original project, is on view through April 27 at Gagosian Gallery in New York.