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Canada, U.S.A., Mexico

1980 Edward Ruscha Born: Omaha, Nebraska 1937 oil on canvas 20 1/8 x 159 1/8 in. (51.1 x 404.2 cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum Bequest of Edith S. and Arthur J. Levin 2005.5.65 Not currently on view

Gallery Label

When Edward Ruscha first thought about being an artist, he felt that newspapers, magazines, or books were more interesting than what "some damn oil painter" was doing. He quotes Claudius in Hamlet, who says, "My words fly up, my thoughts remain below. Words without thoughts never to heaven go." In Canada, U.S.A., Mexico, the distant letters glow brightly in the night sky, like beacons sending messages out into the universe.

Ruscha is based in Los Angeles, where he hit it big with paintings of single words taken from Southern California's neon landscape. Over the years, he has made many road trips on America's western highways, often in the company of other artists. Despite its large scale, this painting suggests an image seen in a rear-view mirror, as though Ruscha had traveled far from the territory where words loomed huge in his canvases, and an immense and enigmatic space now offered him a new perspective.

Exhibition Label, Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2006



Landscape - celestial - planet


paint - oil

fabric - canvas