cover image Various Small Books: Referencing Various Small Books by Ed Ruscha

Various Small Books: Referencing Various Small Books by Ed Ruscha

Edited by Jeff Brouws, Wendy Burton, and Hermann Zschiegner. MIT, $39.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-262-01877-7

Charting the influence of Ruscha's photobooks of the 1960s and 1970s, this collection navigates the multiple critical and artistic responses born from Twentysix Gas Stations. This 1962 book is the first of several by the artist that document commonplace objects, ranging from parking lots to palm trees, in straightforward and prosaic images. Ruscha is identified as a proto-photoconceptualist, and the critical introduction untangles questions of medium, methodology, and content that his deceptively simple photobooks have raised. The bulk of the study, however, collects 91 photobooks by other artists that engage Ruscha's work; the range of and challenges raised by these homages perhaps the greatest testament to Ruscha's importance. Representative images from and of these books are accompanied by critical and descriptive notes, furthering the inquiries begun by Ruscha while considering the newer projects on their own terms. It is this "return to and recalibration of an aesthetic of interest" that drives the book, the question of where our interest is drawn renewed through the language of photography. At once celebratory, serious, and challenging, the collection gracefully offers new points of inquiry for considering an artist whose core questions remain wonderfully unresolved. Color and b&w illus. (Jan)