Allen Ruppersberg’s work is based on a critical approach of the media and consumer society. Installation, video, performance, painting, sculpture, drawing, books and photographs are the different media he uses to express himself. His oeuvre, fuelled by the Beat Generation and movements of thought which came into being in California in the 1950s and 1960s, draws inspiration from literature (Oscar Wilde, Voltaire, H. D. Thoreau, Allen Ginsberg…), and popular American culture (the film industry, magazine illustrations, postcards, detective novels…), and incorporates both autobiographical references and the places where he has lived, in particular (Los Angeles, New York, Münster, Basel, Arnheim, Frankfurt…). His early days, which were influenced by Ed Kienholz and Ed Ruscha, were marked by collage and assemblage. The artist opened his own restaurant in 1969 in Los Angeles, Al’s Café, followed by Al’s Grand Hotel in 1971, which offered him a new approach to relations between art and life, fiction and reality, and the private and the public spheres. It is not Ruppersberg’s intention to produce anything, simply to “reproduce” or “copy” what is already there, and what is already “written”. His essentially “literary” approach is steeped in narrative and a fictional world which only writing manages to convey. In his work titled Portrait of Dorian Gray (1974), on some 20 canvases he copied by hand the entire Oscar Wilde novel, referring this literary description of a pictorial portrait to painting.
Allen Ruppersberg (Cleveland, 1944) lives and works in New York and Santa Monica, California. In 1967 he graduated from the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles, and since 1972 he has been teaching in various American universities, including the USC Roski School of Fine Arts Gallery in Los Angeles. He has written several books (Chapter VI, 2009; The New Five Foot Shelf of Books, 2004; The Best of All Possible Worlds, 1997; Al’s Grand Hotel, 1971). He has won several prizes (National Endowment for the Arts, 1982 and 1976; Guggenheim Fellowship, 1997). He has taken part in many group exhibitions (When Attitudes Become Form, Kunsthalle, Bern, 1969; Documenta V, 1972; the Lyon Biennale, 1996). There have been several major solo exhibitions of his work (Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 1985; Institute of Visual Arts, Milwaukee, 1998; Institut d’Art Contemporain, Villeurbanne, 2006; Museum of Art, Santa Monica, 2009).