Twentysix Gasoline Stations

Lithograph by Ed Ruscha

“I used to drive back four or five times a year,” says Ruscha, “and I began to feel that there was so much wasteland between L.A. and Oklahoma that somebody had to bring the news to the city. Then I had this idea for a book title—Twentysix Gasoline Stations—and it became like a fantasy rule in my mind that I knew I had to follow. Then it was just a matter of being a good little art soldier and going out and finishing it. It was a straightforward case of getting factual information and bringing it back. I thought of it as making a sort of training manual for people who wanted to know about things like that.”

Twentysix Gasoline Stations, published in 1962, was the prototype for most of Ruscha’s subsequent books. It contains black and white snapshots of gasoline stations in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Amarillo, Texas— the model for Ruscha’s famous 1963 painting, Standard Station—each photographed from across the street and identified by a one-line caption giving name and location.

Patricia Failing, “Edward Ruscha, Young Artist: Dead Serious About Being Nonsensical” Art News, April 1982.