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American Scenes

The View from the Road
Edward Ruscha and Mason Williams, <i>Double Standard</i>, 1969, color screenprint
zoom Edward Ruscha and Mason Williams, Double Standard, 1969, color screenprint


Have you ever traveled along Route 66? Maybe not. Today, you can take big interstate highways when you want to drive across the country. But many years ago, Route 66—stretching 2,400 miles—was the main road from Chicago to Los Angeles. People called it “the Main Street of America” or “the Mother Road.”

Ed Ruscha traveled on Route 66 a lot. In 1956, when he was eighteen years old, he moved from Oklahoma City to Los Angeles, taking that route. He drove with his friend Mason Williams in a 1950 black Ford sedan, and the two stopped often at gas stations to service the car. Over the years, Ruscha, who remained in Los Angeles, went back and forth many times along this famous highway.

His trips on Route 66 made a deep impression on Ruscha. The signs, billboards, and gas stations spotting the desolate highway inspired him to create a series of artworks. In 1963, he published a book entitled Twentysix Gasoline Stations, documenting his travel on Route 66 through black-and-white photographs of roadside gas stations. Ruscha made several paintings and prints from those photographs, including Double Standard.

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1. Route 66 began in Chicago and ended in Los Angeles.
2. A photograph from Ruscha’s book Twentysix Gasoline Stations (Edward Ruscha, Twentysix Gasoline Stations, 1963, photographic illustrations)


December 2005