Nothing is more American than our cars and what we do with them. Which is, drive. As America celebrates its independence this week, it's interesting to note how much driving has come to define the American experience, how much we associate the car and where it can take the individual with independence and freedom.Ruscha's book and blown-up excerpts.
One of the most iconic expressions of this unique phenomenon appeared in the 1950s, when the United States was in the midst of shaping what would become known as the American Century — the novel "On the Road" from Beat Generation author Jack Kerouac. His real-life travels across the U.S. during a time on the cusp of cultural upheaval, documented in the hip new language of jazz and poetry and anti-establishment ideals, would become a road-map of its own.
Another well-known documenter of Americana decided to use Kerouac's book for his own artistic explorations, which is currently on display at MOCA. A visit to Ed Ruscha's visual version of "On the Road" is a an appropriate way to celebrate our Independence month, with his text-based paintings — in this case, quirky snippets from Kerouac's novel — with archetypal background landscapes evocative of the vast American West. There are also drawings, and some of his famous black-and-white photographs taken from the road in the early 1960s. Ruscha has also made his own book, a large-scale paper art object which you flip through with gloves, and which is illustrated with classic images of, what else? — cars.
Ed Ruscha's "On the Road" runs through Sept. 2 at MOCA, 770 N.E. 125th St., North Miami; 305-893-6211; www.mocanomi.org.