Legendary pop artist Ed Ruscha has his paintings and he has his photography, the latter most famously compiled into small typological books of a single subject. Like Every Building on the Sunset Strip, a book of… every single building on a two-mile strip of Sunset Boulevard. Or Twenty-Six Gasoline Stations, which featured… 26 gas stations along Route 66. Or Nine Swimming Pools and a Broken Glass — nine unoccupied pools and a shattered drinking glass on the floor. No text. No explanation. Just photograph after photograph of the mundane. When these books came out in the Sixties and Seventies, they puzzled. Ruscha sent a copy of the gas-station one to the Library of Congress; it was rejected, and returned.

“Above all, the photographs I use are not ‘arty’ in any sense of the word,” Ruscha told Artforum in 1965. “I think photography is dead as a fine art; its only place is in the commercial world, for technical or information purposes… To me, they are nothing more than snapshots.” Seven year later, in 1972, he told The New York Times: “I know that my books are not thought of in the same way as my paintings are…. It doesn’t bother me that much, that they might decompose or not be thought of as ‘objects of art.’”

In her latest exhibit at L.A.’s Kopeikin Gallery, artist Amy Park explores this notion by recreating Ruscha’s book of pools from 1968 — in beautiful large-scale watercolor. She paints the title page, too. “For me,” the New York-based Park explains, “I loved the formal qualities of the photos, the shapes of the water contained in the pools; the imperfect compositions; the color choices Ruscha made within each pool photo and as a set of images; finding some abstraction in it all.” After you take in the exhibit, make sure you check out Ruscha’s original pool photos (online or elsewhere); they both captivate, but the different ways they do — and the different ways your body and mind respond — is thrilling.

Ed Ruscha’s Nine Swimming Pools & A Broken Glass, on view till August 19th, is a followup to Park’s show last year, Every Building on The Sunset Strip, which tackled — you guessed it — Ruscha’s book of the same name.

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