Eddie Ruscha (b. 1968) is an LA-based artist and musician. Son of Ed Ruscha, one of the most eminent living artists, we discuss how he developed his craft, channelling synesthesia and the enduring influence of discothèques.
Eddie Ruscha: In many ways it came from wanting to explore non-narrative ideas. I was veering away from figurative images and playing with things that don’t exist in everyday life. It’s almost a way of world building: sensory worlds with no exact meaning. They’re meditative utterances.
I was veering away from figurative images and playing with things that don’t exist in everyday life.
Eddie: They definitely feed each other. Now they’re more intertwined than ever before, I’m jumping between them in a symbiotic way. I always have music in my head when I’m painting, and I’m always seeing something visual when I’m making music.
Eddie: I can remember having books around the house as a little kid and being completely engaged with optical art. I had a book from the school library called “The Wizard Of Op” that was really formative for me. The idea that these patterns could create something other than what was printed on the paper was fascinating as a kid. That said, I don’t consider myself to be an Op artist—it’s almost too scientific of a practice. Most painting is kind of sleight of hand anyway.
I don’t consider myself to be an Op artist—it’s almost too scientific of a practice.
Eddie: In films or TV shows from the 70s and 80s a spiral was this moment when a person falls into another dimension, or goes back in time, or drinks a potion. Everything at that time always had a scene where a figure is falling into a spinning spiral. It’s kind of quaint really. I’ve also spent a lot of time staring at records going around on a turntable. The spiral goes back to ancient symbolism, and I adhere to those notions but it’s not the main reason I use it. It’s a language, like the Rorschach test is a kind of language.
The spiral goes back to ancient symbolism, and I adhere to those notions but it’s not the main reason I use it.
Eddie: I would say it’s pretty important. It’s this idea of the power of group communion and connection. Seeing a movie in a movie theater is different to watching at home even if you don’t talk to the other people after. It’s a human being’s need for connection. A club night or a concert forges a deep connection between all the people there. When people discover they went to the same show in the past it forges an understanding between these people, and I think that’s really profound. It may be corny to call it “tribal”, but it is in a way.
A club night or a concert forges a deep connection between all the people there.
Eddie: I learned absolutely tons working for my dad, it gave me confidence with materials and in myself. When a certain painting of his that I worked on ends out in a museum somewhere, it may not have my name on it (well actually… uh) but I feel like I’ve done that enough to the point of knowing that I can pull it off. As for the airbrush technique, I learned how to refine it from him—even though it’s the same tool, we use it very differently. That said, so much seeped into me working in his studio it’s probably unquantifiable.
I learned absolutely tons working for my dad, it gave me confidence with materials and in myself.
Eddie: I think there’s a lot to that. Seeing a photo of an artwork can be great, but there is no question that the viewer will get a deeper connection when they’re physically in front of it. At a gallery or museum I look at details, like the canvas blend, how a painting sits on a stretcher or if paint dripped down the sides. The quality of paint, or line work, or anything for that matter gets flattened in a photo, not even mentioning sculptural work. Photos of art serve an important purpose though: you cannot always be in front of a work of art, nor would you want to necessarily. They’re like thumbnails that refer to an actual thing, and I love looking at art books.
At a gallery or museum I look at details, like the canvas blend… or if paint dripped down the sides.
Eddie: I listen to so much, new and old, it’s almost impossible to pinpoint but I would say the main things I listen to are tracks I’m working on myself. Listening in the car is almost like working in the studio. While I’m listening, I’m actually working or studying. I also try and stay up on my favorite labels as well as checking in on what’s new.
Eddie: Eating taco truck tacos, surfing and playing modular synths.