On the Road


Edward Ruscha ( American, 1937 )


Jack Kerouac ( American, 1922 - 1969 )

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General Description

Trained as a commercial artist and sign designer, Ed Ruscha developed an artistic practice that has been marked by his incorporation of typography, serial imagery, and graphic simplicity. For On the Road, Ruscha took the iconic text by Jack Kerouac and transformed it into an artist's book, illustrated with fifty-five black-and-white photographs taken by Ruscha himself, commissioned from other photographers, or culled from found images. Ruscha's curated illustrations reference details described in passages of the novel, giving visual form to poetic moments in the text that might otherwise be overlooked.

Kerouac wrote On the Road in 1951, a 120 foot-long typewritten scroll, based on a series of notebooks he filled during road trips across the United States and Mexico in the late 1940s. Published in 1957, the book would go on to become a defining work of Beat and Counterculture literature. Ruscha's own career has explored and documented American highways, most famously in his first photobook Twentysix Gasoline Stations (1963), a publication containing dead-pan images of the gas stations one finds along the highway from Ruscha's home in Los Angeles to that of his parents in Oklahoma City.

Excerpt from

Anna Katherine Brodbeck, ed., TWO X TWO X TWENTY: Two Decades Supporting Contemporary Art at the Dallas Museum of Art (Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art), 2018, 136.