October 23, 2023
Here's a shoutout to a fellow cartoonist who currently has a big retrospective show of his art at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
In 1963, on a trip home from LA to see his mother in Oklahoma City, Edward Rusche (pronounced Rew-shay) took a series of photographs of gas stations along the route home—Route 66. The young, ex-sign painter, took some 60 photographs and when he got back to LA he did an Anti-ambitious-reverse-engineering, leap-of-imagination kind of thing. He self-published a book (actually, almost a pamphlet) called Twentysix Gasoline Stations. The cover is simply those three words (yes Twentysix is one word on the cover) spread out with no image. Inside there is no text, just the photograph of each gas station in black and white. In the caption is the brand of gas and the name of the town, like this:
He priced these books for $3 each and had few takers. And, in addition, at his first art show he sold zero paintings. Then Dennis Hopper bought a painting for $1,000. Yes, this Dennis Hopper:
Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper on Choppers rounding the curve on old Route 66 at Hackberry in Mohave County, 1969
Today Rusche is considered one of the pop giants of the art world (see the news of his retrospective at MOMA in New York).
by Edward Rusche, from the book
"Twentysix Gasoline Stations"
"I have eliminated all text from my books. I want absolutely neutral material. My pictures are not that interesting, nor the subject matter. They are simply a collection of 'facts', my book is more like a collection of readymades. . .It is almost worth the money to have the thrill of 400 exactly identical books stacked in front of you."
Believe it or not, my father, Al Bell, ran one of the gas stations
Ruscha photographed for the pamphlet.
BBB in front of the Ed Rusche photograph of the
Flying A Truck Stop at McConnico (top, right)
Supposedly Ed nixed 34 gas station photos that he found
"too interesting." Perhaps this was one of them?
outside Kingman, Arizona
In 1966, Rusche did a painting, perhaps inspired by the Amarillo Standard station, above.
Standard Station, 1966
Of course, this painting is a pop classic and just sold
for $54 million and change.
And, a first edition of his pamphlet, Twentysix
Gasoline Stations sells for $40,000.
"I occasionally see a guy walking on the side of the road giving me a thumbs up. He's usually filthy but it's nice he appreciates my driving."
—Old Clueless Snowbird Comment