Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Joe Weber and Lew Fields in their Eye Gouging Act.

Vaudeville January 29–July 15, 2018

For over a century, the variety performance of vaudeville was the most popular form of entertainment and one of America's largest cultural exports. Through immigrant acts, complex racialized minstrel performances, and nuanced political satire, vaudeville helped define America's national identity throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Vaudeville took comedy and satire and boiled them down to a nearly scientific formula—one that is still in use today, making the humor of vaudeville fresh and relevant.

The exhibition will draw on the Ransom Center's extensive holdings of Harry Houdini, Tony Pastor, and Florenz Ziegfeld, among others, to show how the vaudeville form came into existence, describe its highly-organized structure and its most popular acts, and demonstrate its long-lasting impact on contemporary film, television, and comedy.


Pages from one of Ed Ruscha's journals, ca. 1969.

Ed Ruscha: Archaeology and Romance Fall 2018

In his examination of ordinary material culture and everyday architecture, internationally renowned contemporary artist Ed Ruscha has functioned as an archeologist of sorts, analyzing objects, images, words, and other artifacts he encounters. After a trip to Europe with his mother and brother in 1961, Ruscha returned to Los Angeles with a new sense of appreciation for and curiosity about American popular culture, noticing vernacular structures, commercial signage, the iconography of the road, and the manufactured romance of Hollywood. These themes pervade the artist's books he produced in the 1960s and early 1970s.

Ed Ruscha: Archaeology and Romance will introduce Ruscha's groundbreaking books to those not yet familiar with his work, while displaying previously unavailable archival materials. The exhibition focuses on an artist whose engagement with the book form has changed the art world.

This exhibition will include about 200 items from the Ransom Center's Ed Ruscha Papers and Art Collection including notebooks, manuscripts, layout sketches, business records, photographs, lithographs, screenprints, a poster, and books.