Noise, Pencil, Broken Pencil, Cheap Western (Primary Title)

Ed Ruscha, American, born 1937 (Artist)

oil and wax on canvas
United States
Overall: 71 3/4 × 67 × 1 9/16 in. (182.25 × 170.18 × 3.97 cm)
Not on view

“I wish I’d kept some of my better-known works. I weep over that . . . I consider [this painting] my best one . . . It embodies the aesthetics of all my work.” —Ed Ruscha

Ruscha’s training in commercial art—layout, lettering, and design—is often cited as an influence on his work. Its clean lines, clear colors, and subjects borrowed from commerce and popular culture resemble much in Pop Art. But Ruscha’s work stands between Pop Art and Conceptual Art because of the important role words play and the way the image involves the viewer in interpreting an open-ended narrative.

Here a visual element anchors each edge of the painting, but this careful tension has been broken by the snapped pencil on the right. The word “noise” expands toward the center, as if increasing in volume, and suggests the sound of the pencil breaking.



Gift of Sydney and Frances Lewis
Ed Ruscha: A Retrospective, Museum of Modern Art, New York, September 10, 2023 - January 6, 2024; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA, April 7 - October 6, 2024

Pop to Popism, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia, November 1, 2014 – March 1, 2015

Edward Ruscha, Hirshorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C., June 22 – September 17, 2000; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL, November 11, 2000 – February 5, 2001; Modern Art Museum, Ft. Worth, FL, July 1 - Sept 30, 2001

California Classics: Art from the 1960s and 1970s, Bayly Art Museum, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA, April 19 – June 16, 1991

Bedford Gallery, Longwood College, Farmville, VA, January 17 – February 19, 1988

The Works of Edward Ruscha, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA, March 25 – May 30, 1982; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY, July 8 – September 5, 1982; Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, Canada, October 4 – November 28, 1982; San Antonio Museum of Art, San Antonio, TX, December 27, 1982 – February 20, 1983; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA, March 21 – May 15, 1983

Art in Los Angeles: Seventeen Artists in the Sixties, L.A. County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA, July 16 – October 4, 1981; San Antonio Museum of Art, San Antonio, TX, November 20, 1981 – January 31, 1982

American Pop Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY, April 5 – June 14, 1974

West Coast 1945 - 1969, Pasadena Art Museum, Pasadena, CA, November 1969 – January 1970

Pop Art, Hayward Gallery, London, July – August 1969

The Fellows: A Selection, Pasadena Art Museum, Pasadena, CA, March – April 1969

Joe Goode and Edward Ruscha, Balboa Pavilion Gallery, Newport Beach, CA, 1968

Edward Ruscha, Ferus Gallery, Los Angeles, CA, 1963
(Ferus Gallery, Los Angeles) by 1963; [1] Purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Thomas G. Terbell, Jr., California. [2] (Locksley-Shea Gallery, Minneapolis). (Christie, Manson & Woods, New York) by 1979; [3] Purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Sydney and Frances Lewis, Virginia, in May of 1979; [4] Gift to Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA), RIchmond, Virginia in December of 1985.

[1] Object 85.439 was included at a solo show at Ferus Gallery in 1963. Poncy, Pat, ed. Edward Ruscha Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings. Vol. I. New York: Gagosian Gallery, 2003.

[2] Provenance provided in the auction catalogue for Contemporary Art sale, Christie, Manson & Woods, May 18, 1979.

[3] Work listed under various properties. Contemporary Art. Christie, Manson & Woods, May 18, 1979. New York: Christie, Manson & Woods International, 1979.

[4] Lot # 137, Christie, Manson & Woods, New York, May 18, 1979.
©artist or artist’s estate

Some object records are not complete and do not reflect VMFA's full and current knowledge. VMFA makes routine updates as records are reviewed and enhanced.