Ruscha, Edward. Thirtyfour Parking Lots in Los Angeles. [ Los Angeles ] : [ Edward Ruscha ]. 1967.
In the 1960s, artist Ed Ruscha created a series of now-iconic photographic artist’s books using low cost means of production and distribution, and Thirtyfour Parking Lots in Los Angeles is one of them. It is distinguished from its predecessors, however, in that it was the first to use photographs taken by a professional photographer, Art Alanis, rather than Ruscha himself. Ruscha and Alanis took off in a helicopter on a Sunday afternoon when the lots were empty, and Ruscha pointed out the spots he wanted photographed. To allow the detail of the photographs to be seen, Ruscha chose a larger size for this book than for his earlier books.
The resulting thirty-one photographs used in the book depict thirty-four parking lots accompanied by captions identifying the lot and its location. As with all of Ruscha’s photographically-based artist’s books, and despite the intervention of a professional photographer, these emotionally flat, documentary-style photographs present a stark contrast to the fine art photography of the time, an art form in which Ruscha had no interest.
Rather than celebrating the photographer’s personal aesthetic vision, therefore, the photographs here document a critical aspect of life in Los Angeles and of the behavior of the people who live there, showing by their size which parking lots were most used and by their oil stains which spaces within them were most favored. Published the same year as Sol LeWitt’s influential essay, “Paragraphs on Conceptual Art,” – which used Ruscha’s Every Building on the Sunset Strip (1966) as an illustrating example – this book reinforces the link between Ruscha’s pioneering work and the Conceptual Art movement that was emerging at that time.
The cover of this sewn softcover book features the title printed in orange. The black-and-white photos are reproduced by offset lithography. The last photo extends out of its spread with a small foldout flap as called for with the first edition. Although usually unsigned and unnumbered, this particular copy is signed by the artist opposite the title page. There is a distributer’s stamp on the verso of the title page. This copy is in very good condition overall and is wrapped in its original glassine dust jacket.
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