Saturday, February 25, 2006

Parking lot

Ed Ruscha’s Thirty-Four Parking Lots (1967) used aerial photography to turn banal, functional urban landscapes into abstract designs. Looking at these images it is easy to forget the reality of Los Angeles, city of cars, and perceive the parking lots as earthworks designed for aesthetic purposes. There are currently examples on-line here, here, here and here.
Yves Alain Bois discussed one of these photographs in the book he wrote with Rosalind Krauss, Formless. He notes that after Ruscha captured these parking lots one early morning before the cars arrived, it was possible to see them as “a machine for the production of oil-spots”. The spots appear to be part of the design, a dynamic feature which grow and then are erased when the lots are asphalted over again. They convey some of the entropic quality of urban space that fascinated artists in the sixties and seventies.

1 comment:

They say it's a cold world said...

I haven't seen Bois' discussion, but your mention of the oil spots points to the most fascinating aspect of Ruscha's parking lot photographs: over time these spaces become maps of a very particular human activity. The density and distribution of the various drips that discolor the asphalt demonstrate both laziness and efficiency, denoting the obsessive to which humans driving motor vehicles will attempt to park them as close as possible to their work or shopping destination. Such that even if the buildings (here mere architectural appendages dwarfed by their own parking lots) were not included in the image, we would know where to find them by observing the perfect bell-curves marked by oil, bloodstains spilling from the automotive artery.