Thirty-four parking lots in Los Angeles (1967)


 ‘the photographs in thirty four parking lots in Los Angeles (1967), are the result of a combination of instruction, performance, and chance. Ruscha gave an aerial photographer instructions to photograph empty parking lots around LA,thereby revealing hitherto unnoticed herringbone patterns and variegated oil stains.
The instructional aspect of Ruscha books connects them with similar strategies in some strands of conceptual art in the late sixties and seventies. In my view, the brilliance of Lawrence Weimars Statements of 1968, such as A 36″x 36″ Removal to The Lathing or Support Wall Board from A Wall, is the unanticipated patterns of pipes and wires that are exposed when the minimal instruction is performed – although, admittedly, this rather goes against the grain of his own Statement of Intent (1969): “the piece need not be built …” ‘

thirty ruscha---

Page 14, Chance: Documents of Contemporary Art. 2010. White Chapel Gallery, London & MIT Press, Cambridge-Massachusetts

Love the element of chance, compositions made from geography, terrain, the world as its evolved, interacted with via people, vehicles. Art made by people initially and unwittingly without artistic intention, just mere function and time. Then Ruscha comes along and represents it, structures it and as John Cage describes further on in that spread I quoted,

‘He always insisted on the importance of the instructional frame: “life without structure is unseen. Pure life expresses itself within and through a structure” ‘

It’s making, helping people look again. There is a question earlier on in the start of this chapter of the book that asks a question, it is this gap of no control between intention and outcome that seems crucial to the meaning of chance in art. Why should artists deliberately setup the gap? And why should the viewer find it so engaging?

Is it for natural, realism? What is it about patterns, oils stains, geog. What are its narratives that make it intriguing, America, cars, pollution.

I’ll finish, until I read more, with a John Cage project called 4’33 (1952) in which a performer is instructed to sit down at a piano, open the lid, and play nothing for fixed periods. This was to allow ambient sounds to be heard in the room. This was his frame like that of Ruscha.


About Chris Watson

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