OOF (Ed Ruscha) (New MoMA)


Ed Ruscha, OOF, 1962 (reworked 1963); oil on canvas

“The single word, its guttural monosyllabic pronunciation, that’s what I was passionate about,” Ruscha has said of his early work. “Loud words, like slam, smash, honk.” The comic-book quality of these words reflects the Pop artists’ fascination with popular culture. Lettered in clear typography rather than handwriting, the words are definite and impersonal in shape; unlike the Abstract Expressionists of the 1940s and ’50s, Ruscha had no interest in letting a painting emerge through an introspective process: “I began to see that the only thing to do would be a preconceived image. It was an enormous freedom to be premeditated about my art.”

Like OOF, many of his paintings have “a certain comedic value,” Ruscha has said, and their humor is underlined by the paradox of their appearance in the silent medium of paint, with neither an image nor a sentence to help them evoke the sounds they denote. OOF is particularly paradoxical, as a word describing a wordless grunt. In Ruscha’s hands, its double Os also punned on recent American paintings—the Targets of Jasper Johns and the Circles of Kenneth Noland.”

Publication excerpt from MoMA Highlights: 375 Works from The Museum
of Modern Art, New York
 (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2019)

Explained for kids here and there’s this bit the New Yorker that links OOF to Los Angeles and Pop Art. As old as I am and no longer young, it’s something like an anthem.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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