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Summer Splash : Lost Among All the Choices? Let These Four Tour Guides Show You the Way : ED RUSCHA : A Variation on a Theme for Summer

May 29, 1994|BARBARA ISENBERG | Barbara Isenberg is a Times staff writer.

Don't expect the usual summer entertainment choices from Edward Ruscha, the Venice-based artist who proved that carrot and blackberry juice were to paint with as well as to drink. The internationally known painter has some idiosyncratic arts choices worthy of sharing.

Some of his interests are traditional, of course. Ruscha, 56, figures he sees most shows at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art, for instance. Among summer exhibitions he's planning to attend are the J. Paul Getty Museum's centennial tribute to photographer Andre Kertesz as well as the coming MOCA exhibition of painter Bruce Nauman.

Then again, Ruscha is the quintessential Los Angeles artist whose canvases immortalized phrases like "Hollywood is a Verb" and "A Blvd. Called Sunset." He's the transplanted Oklahoman whose paint substitutes have included everything from ketchup, spinach and egg white to gunpowder, tobacco and Pepto-Bismol.

So he'll also be spending time at Culver City's Museum of Jurassic Technology, which, he adds immediately, "has no connection to Steven Spielberg." Ruscha is at a loss to describe the Venice Boulevard collection of artistic and scientific artifacts, but he calls it "the most quirky worthwhile museum I know."

Ruscha figures he spends more time in museums when he's in New York than he does here, however. Competing for his attention here, among other things, is car art. "I go out of my way to drive through East L.A. just to see Chicano car styling," says Ruscha. "I think it is Los Angeles' most indigenous art form."

Ruscha spends a lot of time in his car, and admits maps are among his favorite reading materials. "I read maps of any kind, anything that will hold the promise that I'll get out of this town for a short period." (He also mentions that he can get "great inspiration" from reading plumbing manuals.)

Cars are, in fact, a favored entertainment center for Ruscha. "I'm a driving person," he says. "I like driving around L.A. listening to radio."

His favorite car radio entertainment comes not from a station but from a frequency: 88.5 FM. "It gives me two and sometimes three stations that overlap each other, simultaneously," he explains. "It's like a vegetable soup sound. I never know what the two or three stations are going to be. It's uplifting to me to hear these stations--music, news, another kind of music."

Add in his year-round commute back and forth between his places in Los Angeles and in the desert. He'll tune in 88.5, of course, as well as an occasional news program or crusty commentator Paul Harvey. His favorite tapes include those by rhythm-and-blues legends Johnny Otis and Clyde McPhatter as well as by pioneering artist-musician Captain Beefheart.

Ruscha is unlikely to attend a live concert, however. He'll take in boxing at the newly reopened Olympic Auditorium, a place he first visited 34 years ago, but he won't stand in line to buy concert tickets.

Actually, he won't stand in line to buy movie tickets either. Ruscha made two "low, low budget" films himself 20 years ago and has appeared in other movies, but his unwillingness to wait in movie lines has sharply curtailed his movie-going.

The exception is movies by writer-director Quentin Tarantino, whose film "Pulp Fiction" is due out this summer. "I will stand in any line for any length of time to see one of his movies," Ruscha says. He was quite taken with Tarantino's "Reservoir Dogs," he says, "because it is so realistic. It makes you squirm, and I like movies that make me squirm. Although I know they're make-believe."

Given that he prefers seeing films in theaters rather than on video, he readily acknowledges missing most of the blockbusters of the past few years. But he also won't see any movie that smacks of sentimentality, saying "if the advertisement looks the least bit sentimental, I won't go."

Does this summer differ from other summers for Ruscha? "I haven't changed that much from year to year," the artist replies. "I'm a variation on a theme."

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