The word 'Anchovy' in teal on a dark gray background
2006 Curatorial Fellowship Exhibition: Word and Image
Edward Ruscha began working with images and text during the American Pop art movement of the 1960s, and he continues to do so today. However, much of his work defies categorization, embodying elements of Conceptualism and Surrealism, among other movements. Anchovy (1969) features its title word spelled across a subtly modulated, blue-grey background in drippy, liquid letters. Here, the word is the image. Decontextualized, pushed to the foreground, and given juicy, tactile form, the word demands attention and contemplation. Rather than defining meaning, this text invites open-ended interpretation. Its liquid form, for example, could refer to the oil accompanying canned anchovies, or allude to the sea in which the fish once swam. The ephemeral quality of liquid resting on paper recalls the contradictory relationship between the temporal, spoken word and the written word, which, like visual art, possesses the ability to make the impermanent permanent. Anchovy’s multiplicity of meaning comments on the word’s function as sign, at once definitive and elusive.
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