Edward Ruscha Ex Libris, 2017


Commissioned to commemorate the gift of author and New Yorker staff writer Calvin Tomkins’ art book collection to the Redwood, this large-scale acrylic exemplifies Ruscha’s enduring exploration of the visual and connotative potential of words and phrases 

With words functioning as both bearers of meaning and as forms —“becoming a picture… then coming back and becoming word[s] again,” as per the artist— we are left as viewers with a range of interpretive possibilities that confound traditional forms and conventional narratives.


For example, the image authorizes us to think of the play on words of Ex Libris, not only as ‘from the books of’ but also as ‘out of’(Ex) of the library— a conceptual evasion of the decorative frame that tightly encloses the words. Likewise, the color field background transgresses the tradition-laden boundaries of line engraving, the historic medium used for an ex libris.