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9 to 5
Acrylic on canvas
Dimensions: 106.7 x 243.8 cm
At first, the painting, with its extremely elongated format, recalls sweeping panoramic views. In the eighties, Ruscha already used this format in paintings that suggested wide-open, empty spaces. In reality, they were intervals that became the absolute focus of attention, given the extreme length of the canvas. In fact, words appeared on both ends of the painting, on the right and left. In a piece the artist did in 1980, the word “home” was isolated on the right and, much farther to the left, after the eye had moved across what seemed to be a long planetary curve, a cluster of words read: “wolves”, “explosions”, “sickness” and “poisons”. In 9 to 5 the ends belong to a period of time. This space of time, probably public opening hours, is marked out, leaving hardly any empty space or interval. Here, the way the eye wanders from one side of the canvas to the other—to read the words pushed out towards the edges—or the transitions of light—from the darkness of night to the cadmium yellow of daylight—that are often found in the backgrounds of Ruscha’s paintings are neutralised and compressed between two numbers. However, this is no longer a word painting. At least technically speaking, 9 to 5 corresponds to what has come to be known as a silhouette painting. In spite of this, and judging by the message, the painting still reminds us of Ruscha’s well-known graphic compositions that date back to the sixties. Thus, the painting also occupies an interval, even in its appearance. In that sense, the annotations “am” and “pm” still allude to a gradation of light and a movement of the sun that marks times of day and night. By the mid-eighties, Ruscha’s characteristic inscriptions had largely disappeared from his paintings, which showed silhouettes with slightly diaphanous outlines, but dense, velvety bodies. If words appeared at all, their position was merely suggested within the composition, as in Name (1987). In their stead, evanescent symbols took the place of the figure, despite their lack of sharpness. In this case,9 to 5 turns the numbers into figures. The pictorial treatment of numbers and letters takes away their strictly graphic quality and brings the numbers closer to the category of figures in a landscape, which is precisely what happens in the other paintings of this kind. The disproportionate enlargement of what could be a public message once again opens up intervals and distances in the compressed space of the graphic symbols. The numbers represent a process of synthesis that can also be seen in the painting’s austere choice of colour.
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