Born in 1937 in Omaha, Nebraska, Edward Ruscha was raised in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, where his family moved in 1941. In 1956 he moved to Los Angeles to attend the Chouinard Art Institute and had his first solo exhibition in 1963 at the Ferus Gallery. In 1973, Ruscha began showing his work with Leo Castelli Gallery in New York.
Ruscha has consistently combined the cityscape of his adopted hometown of Los Angeles with vernacular language to communicate a particular urban experience. Encompassing painting, drawing, photography, and artist's books, Ruscha's work holds the mirror up to the banality of urban life and gives order to the barrage of mass media-fed images and information that confronts us daily. Ruscha's early career as a graphic artist continues to strongly influence his aesthetic and thematic approach.
In 2001, Ruscha was elected to The American Academy of Arts and Letters as a member of the Department of Art. Leave Any Information at the Signal, a volume of his writings and interviews, was published by MIT Press in 2002. The first comprehensive monograph on the artist, Richard Marshall's Ed Ruscha, was published by Phaidon in 2003.
In 2004, The Whitney Museum of American Art organized two simultaneous exhibitions: Cotton Puffs, Q-tips®, Smoke and Mirrors: The Drawings of Ed Ruscha, which traveled to the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, California, and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.; and Ed Ruscha and Photography.
In 2005, Ruscha was the United States representative at the 51st Venice Biennale.
The traveling exhibition Ed Ruscha, Photographer opened at the Jeu de Paume in Paris in 2006.
Over the past several decades, Ruscha’s work has been the subject of numerous museum retrospectives that have traveled internationally, including those organized by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 1982; the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, France, in 1989; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., in 2000; the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid, Spain, in 2002; and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney, Australia, in 2004. A major retrospective, Ed Ruscha: Fifty Years of Painting, opened at the Hayward Gallery in London in October 2009 and traveled to the Haus der Kunst, Munich, Germany and the Moderna Museet, Stockholm.