— I realized that for the first time this book had an inexplicable thing I was looking for, and that was
a kind of « huh? » That’s what I’ve always worked around. All it is is a device to disarm somebody
with my particular message. Lots of artists use that.
— Give me some examples of « Huh? »
— I don’t know, somebody digging a hole out in the desert and calling it sculpture…
“Huh?” : this onomatopoeia stands for “What is it?”, “Why?”, “What does it mean? etc.
Willoughby Sharp, ‘“… a kind of a Huh?” An Interview with Edward Ruscha’, Avalanche, no.7, Winter/Spring 1973, p.30.
Twentysix Gasoline Stations is the first artist's book by the American pop artist Ed Ruscha. Published in April 1963 on his own imprint National Excelsior Press, it is often considered to be the first modern artist's book, and has become famous as a precursor and a major influence on the emerging artist's book culture, especially in America. The book delivers exactly what its title promises, reproducing 26 photographs of gasoline stations next to captions indicating their brand and location. From the first service station, 'Bob's Service' in Los Angeles where Ruscha lived, the book follows a journey back to Oklahoma City where he had grown up and where his mother still lived. The last image is of a Fina gasoline station in Groom, Texas, which Ruscha has suggested should be seen as the beginning of the return journey, 'like a coda'.