Philadelphia Museum of Art - Collections Object : Pool


Edward Ruscha, American, born 1937

Made in United States, North and Central America


Gunpowder with erasing on wove paper

Sheet: 22 15/16 x 29 inches (58.3 x 73.7 cm)

© Edward Ruscha, courtesy Gagosian Gallery

Curatorial Department:
Prints, Drawings, and Photographs

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Purchased with the Lola Downin Peck Fund and the Carl and Laura Zigrosser Collection (by exchange), 1998

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In 1959 Edward Ruscha used flat, conventional typefaces for his first word pieces, meticulously rendering found words and phrases, which caused them to assume unexpected poetic, associative, or narrative connotations. By the mid-1960s he developed a new series called "wet words." In drawings such as Pool, the word seems to have been formed by the sudden splashing of liquid on the paper. Ruscha achieved this apparently accidental effect using a painstaking technique: he faintly sketched the image and incised the outlines on paper, then brushed on delicate layers of gunpowder wash and gunpowder, scraping out and erasing to create the areas of highlight.

Additional information:
  • PublicationPhiladelphia Museum of Art Handbook (2014 Edition)

    Los Angeles–based artist Ed Ruscha began to depict words and phrases, usually isolated against monochromatic backgrounds, in 1959. Occupying a special place somewhere between Pop, Minimal, and Conceptual art, his meticulously rendered images are variously comic, evocative, ironic, or poetic. Engaged in an ongoing love affair with eye-catching typography, in 1966 he began his series of so-called liquid words in which a word, such as pool, appears to have been formed by the sudden splashing of water or a similar fluid on paper. The unusual medium in this work is gunpowder, applied in delicate layers with scraping out and erasing used to create highlights. Ann Percy, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook. Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2014, pp. 366–367.