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Front Cover, “Gunpowder and Stains,” a book by Ed Ruscha

Out of print, out of luck, any book by Ed Ruscha brings me that much closer to embracing the emptiness of the California deserts, of emptiness and refueling afterward, to understanding the futility that most of us painters — which includes Ed Ruscha, painter extraordinairre — experience nearly every other day, about fifteen times each hour on each of those repeatingly alternate days. I name it “futility” because what workk is done is never done well enough and there follows that time of reflection where the question is, “why didn’t I do that” or this or whatever other that wasn’t done: painting in concept by thinking back over it after it’s done. And the original then feels like it was a work done in futility.

And, that’s when we’re not laughing about how great things are. At which time we are no longer experiencing futility but are, rather, spirited from a finish, like completing a marathon or swimming the thirty laps and enjoying the fresh, newly completed edge.

This process isn’t disorderly emotional perspective or inability to maintain a bit of balance, but it is the fluctuating perspective that usually pushes us painterly and experimental people to the edges of issues where risks are situated, emotionally and perspectorially, the intellectual territory that is curious about the moment, interested in the merge of moralities all around us, momentums, breath and movements…just all of it.

When I view works by Ruscha, I guess as to why he paints: miles and miles of distance he paints, perspectives and himself distanced from nearly everyone else, or, so close as to be upon the finish before anyone else perceives any line to cross — in his own space, literally and figuratively.

But, risks: it’s significant to a creative perspective to take risks and take more of them, all the time. No risks taken, no new gestures attempted and perspectives fall ahead in one, long, fixed, very stoic and dreadful number count. Nothing new there, and the painting stops.

The retraction into concept and isolated thought is comforting when the heart is all filled up with too much and words fall short of speaking the truth of the day and tumble out in bursts of speech, stumbling around, amazement or bewilderment the place or perspective. Thank God for keyboards, brushes, canvas, paint and papers.

If anyone owns a copy of Ed Ruscha’s book, “Gunpowder and Stains,” which is now out of print, please let me know.

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