Artist Ed Ruscha took 12 road trips down Sunset Boulevard from 1965 to 2007, photographing tumultuous moments there, daily life, and quintessential street scenes. The Getty Research Institute put nearly 70,000 of his photos in an archive that viewers can see virtually.
Andrew Perchuk, Deputy Director of the Getty Research Institute, explains the significance of Sunset Blvd: “Sunset has no sidewalks, so you literally can't be a pedestrian. And yet, when it goes to downtown and East LA, it becomes one of the most densely packed areas in the entire city.”
Perchuck says Ruscha moved to Los Angeles as a young man in the 1950s, when Sunset Blvd (and particularly the Sunset Strip) was the center of Hollywood nightlife. “It's where you would see Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall at the Mocambo club. And Ed was too young and too poor to have hung out in places like that. But I think he really felt the romance of it, and then wanted to come back and document the kinds of changes that we're talking about.”
Ruscha wasn’t just interested in how a club or restaurant changed, but he paid attention to even the palm trees. “They're only six feet high in some of the early photos, and then later on, they tower above the buildings next to them,” says Perchuk.
What’s also unique about this project, Perchuck notes: “I don't think that there's either as comprehensive an archive of an artist documenting his or her city or as consistent … as this really anywhere in the world. And I think Ed is committed to doing it as long as he can.”