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On Exhibit: Road Work

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By Jack Feuer

Published Jul 1, 2011 8:00 AM


When a book about a road journey contains observations such as "the holy con man began to eat" and "In California, you chew the juice out of grapes and spit away the skin, a real luxury," it's clear you're in for a different kind of trip — an apt description, surely, for Jack Kerouac's counter-culture classic On the Road.

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Now combine Kerouac's provocative prose with the imagery of an artist famed for his explorations of urban life, and you have a singularly evocative portrait of America.

Such is the treat in store for visitors to the Hammer Museum this summer, when the museum presents Ed Ruscha: On the Road, which brings together the two great visionaries of art and language in one fascinating package.

In 1951, Kerouac wrote his classic on a typewriter as a continuous, 120-foot-long scroll, feverishly recording in 20 days his experiences on road trips in the U.S. and Mexico. On the Road was published six years later and became the bible of the Beat Generation and, later, a seminal influence on the hippie movement of the '60s.

In recent years, Ruscha, a celebrated artist whose work encompasses photography, drawing, painting and artist books, has explored his own fascination with American life and its permutations through Kerouac's novel.

Hit the Road

Ed Ruscha: On the Road
Through Oct. 2, 2011 at the Hammer Museum
For more information, call (310) 443-7000 or visit the Hammer online.

"In many ways, Ruscha's entire career has offered an artistic corollary to Kerouac's linguistic portrait of the American landscape," explains Hammer chief curator Douglas Fogle, who organized the exhibition.

"These new works are no different, except that they channel one of the greatest chroniclers of the American landscape by appropriating and artistically framing fragmented instances of Kerouac's language," he adds.

The exhibition includes Ruscha's edition of On the Road, six large paintings on canvas, and 10 drawings on museum board, each taking its text from Kerouac's novel. So get over to the Hammer — We guarantee a groovy trip.

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