Propelled by this interest in semiotics, Ruscha began to unpack words and phrases from everyday language to communicate a particular urban experience and explore modern life and the barrage of mass media-fed images that characterises it. The work Cold Beer Beautiful Girls (2009), speaks precisely to this sentiment. A stylistic precursor to ‘That Was Then This Is Now’, it uses a similar background of an ethereal sky covered by clouds. For Ruscha, backgrounds should be simple and are used primarily to add a sense of context to a work. He has said that ‘backgrounds are like elevator music, they act to set a tone for a given subject.’4 In this case, that commentary is focused on the presentation and deconstruction of American stereotypes. Referencing the language and imagery of modern marketing, Ruscha alludes to the clichés which constitute so much of the American Dream. Presenting this over a placid and calming background, he creates a stark sense of contrast in the piece; a tension between what the words mean, what they symbolise and how they are viewed.
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