Edward Ruscha. The End evokes a split second of film projection on the big screen. The effect of instantaneity is enhanced by the imperfections and vertical lines in the gray field, which are intended to resemble the tiny scratches, scrapes, and particles of dust that can mar film and projector lenses. The fuzzy, out-of-focus contours of the airbrushed letters, split between the top and bottom of the canvas, suggest that something is amiss in the projection of this particular movie reel; the illusion of continuity is not being created. This "illustration of an out-of-sync mode," as the artist has described it, refers to the past (the Old English typescript recalls medieval manuscripts and the Bible) and the future — once the technology of celluloid film is obsolete, if not totally forgotten, will the painting be recognizable? The title and subject of the work remind us that the continuum of time is composed of the momentary; a flash of ending differentiates past from present and present from future, and a final, apocalyptic end would render time meaningless.
Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights since 1980, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, p. 109.