Ed Ruscha, "Parts Per Trillion,” 1987, acrylic on canvas, 50 by 120 inches. Collection SFMOMA, purchased through the Phyllis C. Wattis Fund for Major Accessions.
From "Antiques and the Arts":
SFMoMA Acquires Essential Painting By Ed Ruscha
Dec 28th, 2007
The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) has acquired the painting "Parts Per Trillion," 1987, by American artist Ed Ruscha.
Purchased through the Phyllis C. Wattis Fund for Major Accessions, the painting joins more than 25 important Ruscha paintings, works on paper, and photographs already in SFMOMA's collection. Together these works tell the story of the rise of Ruscha's career from the 1960s to the present.
SFMOMA also recently acquired an important suite of photographs from Ruscha's cross-historical study of the landscape of Los Angeles ("Then and Now," 1973/2006), as well as the rarest and most valuable of Ruscha's artist's books for the SFMOMA Library. These recent acquisitions have allowed SFMOMA to be one of very few museums in the world with an entire collection of Ruscha's historically significant books.
In the early 1980s Ruscha began exploring a new visual vocabulary with silhouette paintings that do not carry an overt intermingling of text and image, yet evoke a textual narrative. At this time the artist created his first ship paintings, a series of 11 works created between 1983 and 1988 that feature silhouetted ships in varying sizes and formats; for Ruscha, the ship is a symbol for adventure and exploration.
"Parts Per Trillion," the one work from this series that Ruscha opted to keep in his own collection, is one of the two largest and the most visually compelling. Across the surface of this painting, the artist breaks up the visual cohesiveness of the basic black and white picture plane with stark white rectangles reminiscent of censor bars that are laid across text.