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The Old Tech-Chem Building

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acrylic on canvas
48 1/2 x 109 1/2 in. (123.19 x 278.13 cm)

About This Artwork

Blue Collar Tech-Chem and The Old Tech-Chem Building were displayed at the 2005 Venice Biennial, when Ed Ruscha represented the United States as the featured artist. The paintings show the transformation of an industrial building from a Tech-Chem facility (painted in 1992) into a parallel industrial building ambiguously named “Fat Boy.” Inspired by the nineteenth-century painter Thomas Cole’s The Course of Empire cycle, Ruscha extends Cole’s meditation to the past and future of the United States. The transition depicted in the two works denotes a journey from darkness (as is the background of Blue Collar Tech-Chem) into a foreboding place highlighted by the crimson sky of The Old Tech-Chem Building. “Fat Boy,” the name of the nuclear bomb dropped by the United States military over Nagasaki, Japan during World War II, suggests that progress in America may rely on fundamentally dark truths.