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Did the metaphor of crossing the road occur to Ruscha when he realized that to photograph one side of the street he had to be on the opposite side?
Photography is an intriguing medium in that it has the ability to draw one into a two-dimensional space. It elevates that feeling of “being there” like no other medium. The photographs of Twentysix Gasoline Stations (1963) project the slightest inclination that one is there, on site. But of course to see the subject the way the artist presents it, the viewer must theoretically be positioned across the street with the artist. This insight is made evident in the work Every Building on the Sunset Strip (1966). The accordion-style book consists of folded pages presented horizontally. Each page contains a continual strip of photographs of buildings at the top paralleled with another strip of buildings facing them from the bottom, leaving the center empty. What a brilliant way to capture the actual experience of the street and its architecture in the two-dimensional format of a book. This chosen method of presentation tells the viewer that the artist went up and then down, or down and then up, Sunset Strip to compile these continuous images broken by the folds. The work accounts for its making, a simple but profound realization, and reason enough to cross the road.
** This is the fourth installment of our series on Ed Ruscha: Road Tested by our Curator of Education, Terri Thornton. (Part 1 can be viewed here, Part 2 can be viewed here, and Part 3 can be viewed here.) **