Books by Edward Ruscha [at Nigel Greenwood Inc Ltd]. Edward RUSCHA.
Books by Edward Ruscha [at Nigel Greenwood Inc Ltd].
Books by Edward Ruscha [at Nigel Greenwood Inc Ltd].
Books by Edward Ruscha [at Nigel Greenwood Inc Ltd].

First UK Exhibition of Ruscha’s Books

Books by Edward Ruscha [at Nigel Greenwood Inc Ltd].

Eight black & white illus. [12] pp. Accordion format (198 x 105 mm. closed, 1188 x 105 mm. fully unfolded). London: [1971].

The extremely rare catalogue for Nigel Greenwood’s 1971 exhibition of Ruscha’s artists’ books. This was the second international exhibition of these fabled works; Heiner Friedrich had presented them the previous year in Munich (17 March-4 April). An enthusiastic advocate of editioned books as original artworks, Greenwood (1941-2004) became the first gallerist to show the artist’s work in London with the present exhibition on 7-30 January 1971. There is presumably a copy of this catalogue at the Tate, where Greenwood’s archive is held, but on WorldCat it is dated 1970. Printed on this catalogue is the gallery’s first address, 60 Glebe Place, which helps us ascertain the date, since Greenwood moved to a gallery in Sloane Gardens later in 1971.

In September-October 1972, Greenwood hosted the much celebrated Book as Artwork exhibition, co-curated by Lynda Morris and Germano Celant, and Ruscha’s works were featured in the exhibition catalogue’s esteemed checklist. Two later exhibitions at Greenwood’s gallery, in 1973 and 1980, were dedicated to Ruscha’s paintings.

We have seen several similarly designed early listings of these books, one issued by Ruscha’s first publisher, Heavy Industry Publications, and another designed for Friedrich’s 1970 exhibition, both with photographs of the books matching the ones found here. The Greenwood catalogue functions as an early bibliography of his first ten books, from TwentySix Gasoline Stations (1962) to Real Estate Opportunities (1970); the eight earliest are depicted. At this time, Ruscha began to re-issue his initial artists’ books, only several hundred copies of which had been printed, in second and third editions of thousands (see Phillpot, p. 225).

All the books are priced in dollars, the most expensive being Business Cards (1968) for $10.00. The first editions of Every Building on the Sunset Strip ($8.00, 1966), Thirtyfour Parking Lots ($3.50, 1967), and Royal Road Test ($2.50, 1967) are offered at unimaginably affordable prices. Crackers and Real Estate Opportunities, the two last two published are priced $5.00 and $4.00, respectively.

In near fine condition, with a couple of minuscule stains. Besides the likely example of this catalogue at the Tate, we are unable to locate further institutional copies. The present catalogue should not be confused with the well-known poster of Ruscha — titled at the foot “‘Books’ by Ed Ruscha” — covered with his books to promote the show.

❧ Clive Phillpot, “Ed Ruscha: 16 Books and Then Some” in Booktrek (2013), pp. 208-33.

See also Nigel Greenwood’s obituary on the Guardian website (accessed 13 May 2021).

Price: $2,500.00

Item ID: 7623