The picture Actual Size (1962) is among Edward Rusha’s earliest pieces that is most well-known.
About Actual Size painting
Ruscha concentrated on themes related to mass manufacturing and commercial society, much like his New York City colleagues Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein. A can of Spam, a mainstay of American culture during the Cold War, is the subject of the documentary Actual Size.
The enormous brand name from the Spam can is depicted in the painting’s upper half, while the can itself is shown in its full size in the lower half. The Spam can resembles a cannonball or comet that is shooting into space. Behind the can, Ruscha spelled out “Actual Size” in tiny lettering.
The written language and the title both use a term from the realm of advertising to discuss the veracity of the portrayal.
Ruscha monumentalized everyday items like cans of spam to question preconceived assumptions of what constitutes fine art, much like other Pop Art pioneers. Actual Size draws attention to consumerism and the pervasiveness of these products in popular culture.
The painting’s top and bottom halves are in stark contrast, with the top showing an exaggerated and bright brand name and the bottom showing the goods in its actual size, highlighting the processes of advertising.
Artists like Ed Ruscha responded to these social and cultural changes in the 1960s as outdoor advertising rapidly impacted the visual landscapes of American cities. Actual Size might be seen as a critique of American popular culture’s shallowness and superficiality, which frequently promotes the celebration of trash.
Ruscha, like many Pop Artists, has an equivocal attitude regarding popular culture. The artist has frequently expressed his preference for the manufactured and flimsy components of American popular culture. This duality is also shown in Actual Size, where the gigantic image of the spam can is both satirical and funny while also illustrating the predominance of commercial iconography in popular culture.
Nevertheless, Actual Size is more than just a satirical portrayal of advertising and pop culture iconography. The artist addresses fundamental issues of scale and composition in the painting. Since one must be close to the canvas in order to read the words “actual size” inscribed in pencil, Actual Size promotes comparisons between the top and bottom halves.
To completely comprehend the painting’s components, the spectator must view it both up close and from a distance. Scale and proportion were other topics covered in earlier works like Flash, L.A. Times (1963) and Large Trademark with Eight Spotlights (1962).
Ruscha’s early paintings therefore addressed fundamental challenges with composition and painting while also making comments on American consumer culture.