Allen Ruppersberg

1970
101

Untitled (City Limits) is a series of five black-and-white photographs of road signs, specifically the signs demarcating city limits of several small towns in California. Taken outside Palmdale, Littlerock, Pearlblossom, Victorville, and Barstow, towns where the population does not exceed 20,000, Ruppersberg’s trip follows the outskirts of Los Angeles. As with many of his other photographic series, the artist here inserted into each view a constant element that disturbs the otherwise quiet scenes: a hand holding an open magazine.

Like many of his peers in the 1960s, Allen Ruppersberg recognized art as existing not in the isolated realm of aesthetics, but as a practice with a clear political and critical potential, one inextricably immersed in an economic system. Ruppersberg took as source material diverse items stemming from a distinct American form of popular culture of the mid-twentieth century. However, it was perhaps his particular use of everyday rituals to explore different cultural mythologies and narratives that separated him from many conceptual artists of his generation. For a period between the late 1960s and early 1970s, Ruppersberg developed several series of photographs that privileged a certain kind of neutrality, stillness, and emptiness that resembled the seemingly authorless images of mass-produced postcards or calendars. But in his works the artist often hid distinct clues, like an unopened newspaper left on an unmade bed in a hotel room. In this series Ruppersberg was also interested in the suggestion of narrative or uncanny storytelling through the juxtaposition or sequential arrangement of images.