Edward Ruscha moved to Los Angeles in 1956, where he attended Chouinard Art Institute (which became Cal Arts) and initially studied commercial design. In his early works, he mixed the painterly approach of abstract expressionism with the everyday subject matter of Pop Art—and added his interest in language and graphics—to create his unique word-paintings. His long career has also included drawings, prints, photographs, films, and artist’s books.
In the early 1980s, Ruscha produced a series of paintings in which words appear to hover over and in relation to sunsets, night skies, wheat fields, and a range of environmental and atmospheric backgrounds. Exploded Crystal Chandelier Headache depicts those four words in block letters, stenciled on top of a spectrum of shades from deep blue at the top to vibrant yellow at the bottom. His language displays his dry wit and keen observation of what may have been written, spoken, heard, or understood. Ruscha’s use of language is often formed from fleeting fragments, taken out of context and made central, to become the subject of the work itself.
Edward Ruscha, Exploded Crystal Chandelier Headache, 1987, oil on canvas, 59 x 55 inches. Museum purchase with funds provided by the Contemporary Art Council and the Selma Pearl Acquisition Fund for Contemporary Art in honor of Katherine Hough; additional support provided by Leisa and David Austin, 20-2003.