Currently on view at Sprüth-Magers in Berlin, artist Ed Ruscha is exhibiting a body of new color drawings, under the title Metro Mattresses, an exhibition that takes the cast-off mattresses of his native Los Angeles as an inspirational ground for an exploration of intertwined physical and imagined narratives, objective and subjective experiences of the urban environment.
Continuing his practice of documentation and straight-faced appropriation of consumer-grade objects and spaces in his surrounding landscapes, the Metro Mattresses presented here stem from the artist’s systematic photographing of cast-offs dotting the L.A. curbs and street corners. Covered in dirt, stripped of their padding or leaning pathetically against walls, poles and signage, the objects offer a wealth of visual appeal, as the artist seems to savor in the recreation of these faded, chipped and creased objects. In one, a mattress lays against a solitary pole, while in another, it curls in on itself, folding as it slides down an unseen wall.
Ruscha’s work in the vein of the banal, typically American encounter with detritus, static objects and seemingly timeless, displaced structures is by turns tragic, comical, and in some cases, even slightly disturbing. Turning his attention in this series towards a single element, removed from its surrounding context, Ruscha allows this same focus on the object itself as a carrier of subjective interpretation as in one work, where a pair of matresses are coated in a thick streak of blood. The abstracted narrative element portrayed in the piece, combined with its absence from any contextual ground, makes the piece all the more chilling and foreign. In another, a mattress stripped of its outside cover gives the impression of a defiled body, stripped of its dirty casing and lying prone in the open air.
In this sense, the Metro Mattresses works appear as one of Ruscha’s darker turns in recent memory, a series of compositions that emphasize the inherently intimate nature of the mattress, the space of sleep and dreaming, as suddenly jerked away from its domestic moorings, carrying with it memories and hints of its previous owners. Even in an attempt to dispose of what could stand as traumatic moments, traces of violence or quick changes in the owner’s life, these objects are exposed to the world, sitting on the curb before they are removed to the landfill where they will inevitably decay and fade from existence.
Metro Mattresses is on view through January 16th, 2015.
— D. Creahan
Ed Ruscha: Metro Mattresses [Sprüth Magers]