Ed Ruscha (born 1937), Dutch Details (Deventer, The Netherlands: Stichting Octopus / Sonsbeek 71, 1971). 23 pp. with 116 photomechanical illustrations. Edition of 3,000. Marquand Library SPHX TR654.R872 1971q
Edward Ruscha’s books of sequential photomechanical images began in 1963 with Twentysix Gasoline Stations, (GAX 2006-2396N) published in an edition of 400 numbered copies under the imprint “A National Excelsior Publication,” funded by Ruscha himself. The 26 pages offer black and white images of gas stations along Route 66, which Ruscha had taken in 1962. The format had great appeal to him and he went on to produce several dozen other sequential image books over the next few decades. For many historians, Ruscha’s Gasoline Stations represents the beginning of the American artists’ books movement.
1971 was a busy year for Ruscha. He completed five paintings, along with books, films, prints, and drawings, and received a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship. Three books were completed this year: A Few Palm Trees, Records, and Dutch Details. The third was a commission by Sonsbeek ‘71, an international arts exhibition at the Groninger Museum, for which Ruscha was to create a work on site that would then be exhibited. As the plane was approaching The Netherlands, the pilot announced that the weather was bad and he would have more details soon. Ruscha thought, “Dutch details,” and that was the beginning of the project.
Unlike other book projects, Dutch Details is horizontal in format. The images are of bridges and the buildings taken with a hand-held camera. Although the Octopus Foundation published a large edition, the majority of the print run was mistakenly destroyed in a warehouse, and the remaining copies are now highly sought after by Ruscha collectors.
Ruscha said “I don’t want people to go look at these photographs after they are enlarged and they see them on the wall in museums, maybe under the auspice of a museum and consider them to be like a painting … The book, in the end, will be a closer representation of the project.”