Ruscha has consistently combined the cityscape of his adopted hometown with vernacular language to communicate a particular urban experience. Encompassing painting, drawing, photography, and artist's books, Ruscha's work holds the mirror up to the banality of urban life and gives order to the barrage of mass media-fed images and information that confronts us daily. Ruscha's early career as a graphic artist continues to strongly influence his aesthetic and thematic approach.
Ruscha has been the subject of numerous museum retrospectives that have traveled internationally, including those organized by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 1982, the Centre Georges Pompidou in 1989, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in 2000, the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in 2002, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney in 2004. Also in 2004, The Whitney Museum of American Art organized two simultaneous exhibitions: "Cotton Puffs, Q-tips®, Smoke and Mirrors: The Drawings of Ed Ruscha," which traveled to the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., and "Ed Ruscha and Photography." In 2005, Ruscha was the United States representative at the 51st Venice Biennale. The traveling exhibition "Ed Ruscha, Photographer" opened at the Jeu de Paume in Paris in 2006.
In 2001, Ruscha was elected to The American Academy of Arts and Letters as a member of the Department of Art. Leave Any Information at the Signal, a volume of his writings and interviews, was published by MIT Press in 2002, and the first comprehensive monograph on the artist, Richard Marshall's Ed Ruscha, was published by Phaidon in 2003.
A major retrospective will open at the Hayward Gallery in London in 2009.