Getty Research Institute Presents 12 Sunsets, an Interactive Website Exploring Ed Ruscha's Photos of Sunset Boulevard

  • LOS ANGELES, California
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  • October 07, 2020

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From Sunset Blvd, 1966, Ed Ruscha. Streets of Los Angeles Archive. The Getty Research Institute, 2012.M.1. © Ed Ruscha

The Getty Research Institute (GRI) launched today 12 Sunsets: Exploring Ed Ruscha’s Archive, an interactive website that allows users to discover thousands of photographs of Sunset Boulevard taken by artist Ed Ruscha between 1965 and 2007. See it here: 12Sunsets.Getty.edu

“Ed Ruscha’s engagement with the Los Angeles cityscape is profound. Since the mid-1960s he has taken more than a half-million photographs of the streets of Los Angeles, which have been at Getty Research Institute since 2012,” said Mary Miller, director of Getty Research Institute. “We aim to activate this rich material and make it widely accessible and appealing to anyone interested in art or the recent history of this great city. The vast majority of these photographs have never been seen before, and making them accessible opens up new avenues for inquiry about one of the most significant artists of the postwar period, as well as a major part of Los Angeles history.”

Ed Ruscha’s camera diagram. From the Streets of Los Angeles Archive. The Getty Research Institute, 2012.M.1. © Ed Ruscha

The website, designed by Stamen Design working with Getty Digital, allows users to “drive” down Sunset Boulevard in 12 different years between 1965 and 2007, as well as to view, search, and compare the more than 65,000 photographs of this key urban artery. Entering this user-friendly website, visitors can navigate Sunset Boulevard in a particular year, browsing tens of thousands of geotagged photos, with images from both sides of the street. Users can search by address, explore how neighborhoods changed over the years, compare sites at different times, and search the images by words on signs or by subject – functions made possible by optical character recognition and computer vision.

The photographs are part of the Ed Ruscha Streets of Los Angeles Archive, a trove of 500,000 photographs, notes, drawings, and records documenting the artist's photography of Los Angeles which was acquired by the GRI in 2012.

“Through his street photography, Ed Ruscha created what is probably the most significant artistic record of a city in the United States and perhaps the world,” said Andrew Perchuk, deputy director of Getty Research Institute. “This incredible body of work will be of interest not only to art lovers but to anyone interested in the vast social, demographic, and architectural changes Los Angeles has experienced over the last 50 years. 12 Sunsets is a user-friendly path into his practice, and is suitable for all ages.”

The project team for 12 Sunsets includes David Newbury, Enterprise Software Architect, Getty Digital; Nathaniel Deines, Project Manager, Getty Digital; and Eric Rodenbeck, Stamen Design. The project is part of a larger initiative that seeks to digitize and make available this unique resource.  This project team includes Andrew Perchuk, Deputy Director, GRI; Fran Terpak, Curator of Photography, GRI; Zanna Gilbert, Senior Research Specialist, GRI; Emily Pugh, Principal Research Specialist, GRI; and Lily Pregill, Enterprise Systems Architect, Getty Digital.

From Cesar Chavez Avenue, 2007, Ed Ruscha. From the Streets of Los Angeles Archive. The Getty Research Institute, 2012.M.1. © Ed Ruscha

In 1966, Ed Ruscha began a sweeping, systematic, and innovative effort to photograph the streets of Los Angeles to create his seminal artist book Every Building on the Sunset Strip (1966). Using a motorized camera mounted on the back of a pickup truck, he captured photographs of the buildings on each side of the street. Tracking distinctive elements of the Los Angeles cityscape, the project spans five decades and records major streets such as Hollywood Boulevard, Melrose Avenue, and Sunset Boulevard. The archive of this methodical and expansive effort contains more than a half-million images including negatives, digital files, contact sheets, notebooks, and the complete production archive of Every Building on the Sunset Strip. The Getty Research Institute acquired the Ed Ruscha Streets of Los Angeles Archive in 2012 and subsequently launched an ambitious project to digitize this material and make it widely accessible.12 Sunsets is the first public element of this endeavor. Other aspects of digitization include four scholar teams who have been working with the GRI to create their own projects using the Streets of LA digital material and an upcoming digital publication to be created with Getty Publications. 


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