Ed Ruscha's Simple Beauty
By Eva Chow
Every Morning I wake up to the beautiful word “we” written on a snowy blue mountain with a mysterious sky above. It’s a small painting hanging in my bedroom above the fireplace. I’m lucky to be able to look at a picture that helps me start my day with optimism. It does what art is supposed to do. It inspires. That’s Ed Ruscha’s work. It influences lives and teaches us to look at the simplest things: road signs, buildings, words, the sky, and—my favorite—the mountains.
I met Ed many years ago when I started to date my husband, Michael. My impression was that he was cool and charismatic, with a quiet manner. He was my idea of a great American man.
I remember the argument Michael and I had on our way back from the opening of Ed’s “Mountain Paintings” show at Larry Gagosian’s gallery. I wanted to buy a beautiful picture that night, and Michael said, “Let’s think about it.” Well, the show sold out, and we missed our chance. Michael regretted not listening to me for years to come—because I wouldn’t let him forget it. Of course, now that I have my mountain pictures, we are at peace.
In 2005, Michael and I went to the Venice Biennale because Ed was showing there. I will always remember that trip with excitement and fondness. It was an especially eventful year in the art world. Everyone was there, largely to celebrate Ed Ruscha, and celebrate we did. There was a party on Paul Allen’s boat, a quaint dinner on the Missoni boat with my dear friend Sam Keller, and a big, amazing party that Larry Gagosian threw in a magnificent palazzo. Cy Twombly was there! But the biggest thrill was going to Ed’s American pavilion. The pictures were hung perfectly—old work balancing and complementing the new, showing how lives evolve.
It reminded me if something is good, it’s timeless. It goes everywhere, and it fits with everything. A great contemporary American artist showing in my favorite place, Venice—it was a perfect trip!
Michael always raves about the significance of Ed’s work to me. “Ed did this first. Ed did that first,” he says. I let him tell me about works that are widely exhibited all over the world and hang in every important museum. I want to tell Michael he doesn’t have to go on and on about Ed’s talent—I get it. But I keep quiet and let him enjoy his own enthusiasm.
Last time Ed was in our home, my daughter Asia said to me, “Mr. Ruscha is the coolest person I know.” I told her, “You can call him Ed.” “No, Mummy,” she replied, “he is Mister Ruscha!” Even to a 14-year-old who grew up knowing him, he is an artist who does monumental work that continually provokes us to reconsider a word, a sentence, a change, nature, and life.
A few years ago, after we moved into a new home, Ed and his wife, Danna, gave us a housewarming present, a small canvas with our family initial, “C.” Since then, Michael and I joke we need to move three more times to complete our name, “Chow.” I don’t think Ed finds it funny, but as I write this, I’m laughing.
photograph by Stefanie Keenan/PatrickMcMullan.com (Ed Ruscha, Eva Chow, and Michael Chow)