May 12, 2011
Still Learning From Las Vegas

One of the more interesting sections in Alexandra Schwartz’ Ed Ruscha’s Los Angeles examines the impact Ruscha’s book Every Building on the Sunset Strip had on Denise Scott-Brown’s thinking, and, in particular, her work in Learning From Las Vegas, where she champions the vernacular forms featured in Ruscha’s books.

This 2005 interview with Scott-Brown and Venturi, linked here, provides an update on some of the ideas in Complexity and Contradiction, as well as what she continues to learn from Las Vegas 30 years later.

Discussing gentrification and the contemporary main street, Scott-Brown states: “I think developers try to build for what they think the public will buy. Whether they have the analytic tools to tell what the public wants is difficult to know. And whether their success is due to a correct analysis or to a shortage of housing is hard to tell.”

I had the later version of Learning From Las Vegas in college, a rather slim, b&w affair. I was surprised to learn, much later, that the first edition of this book is stunning, with innovative typography, a glassine cover wrapped over cloth binding, and presented in a larger format, where the color photographs come alive (designed by Muriel Cooper).

The Design Observer Group explains how the two versions came to be, including the fallout over the design, and Cooper’s later work, which further explored innovative typographical presentation. A robust and well-tempered discussion follows in the comments—worth a read!

Unfortunately, the first edition, designed by Cooper, sells for upwards of 3k. When my ship comes in…

May 3, 2011
"The Information Man is someone who comes up to you and begins telling you stories and relates facts in your life. He came up to me and said, “Of all the books of yours that are out in the public, only 171 are placed face up with nothing covering them; 2,026 are in vertical positions in libraries, and 2,715 are under books in stacks. The most weight on a single book is 68 pounds, and that is in the city of Cologne, Germany, in a bookstore. Fifty-eight have been lost; 14 have been totally destroyed by water or fire; 216 books could be considered badly worn. Three hundred and nineteen books are in positions between 40 and 50 degrees. Eighteen of the books have been deliberately thrown away or destroyed. Fifty-three books have never been opened, most of these being newly purchased and put aside momentarily.
Of the approximately 5,000 books of Ed Ruscha that have been purchased, only 32 have been used in a directly functional manner. Thirteen of those have been used as weights for paper and other small things, seven have been used a swatters or to kill small insects such as flies and mosquitos, two were used as a device to nudge open a door, six have been used to transport foods like peanuts to a coffee table, and four have been used to nudge wall pictures to their correct levels. Two hundred and twenty-one people have smelled pages of the books. Three of the books have been in continual motion since their purchase; all three of these are on a boat near Seattle, Washington.”"

Ed Ruscha’s antisubjective alter ego, speaking on the subject of his books. Taken from Alexandra Schwartz’s Ed Ruscha’s Los Angeles.

March 6, 2011

Interview with Ed Ruscha’s Los Angeles author Alexandra Schwartz.

Looking forward to finally reading this book. I’ve been mesmerized by the recent exploration of west coast artists, especially those associated with Wallace Berman and Ferris Gallery. Jonathan Williams was also tuned in to many of these artists. 

Alexandra Schwartz is the author of Ed Ruscha’s Los Angeles (MIT Press, 2010) and editor of a collection of Ed Ruscha’s writings, Leave Any Information at the Signal: Writings, Interviews, Bits, Pages (MIT Press, 2002).