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Edward Ruscha
Golden Words
Dry pigment and acrylic on paper

40.25 x 60 inches
Study for Miami-Dade Public Library Commission

[Study for Commission] [Commission Installation View]

Excerpt from Miami-Dade County Art in Public Places,
Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs, FL

Edward Ruscha
Words Without Thoughts Never to Heaven Go, 1985
Oil on Canvas (Mural)
360 degree painting in entrance rotunda
Collection: Miami-Dade County Art in Public Places, Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs
Location: Miami-Dade County Main Library, Lobby Rotunda

Ed Ruscha was commissioned in 1985 by the Miami-Dade County Art in Public Places Trust to create a series of murals for the main public library building in downtown Miami designed by architect Philip Johnson. The public art commissioned for the main library draws attention to the literary purposes of the building and represents the perfect marriage of artwork to site.

For the rotunda mural, artist Ed Ruscha selected seven words from Shakespeare’s Hamlet and brought them to the forefront of our vision.  Installed as a continuous frieze, the work is a composite of eight separate yet harmonious paintings which bear the quote “WORDS WITHOUT THOUGHTS NEVER TO HEAVEN GO.” Taken from the third act of Hamlet, King Claudius mutters these words as he is praying, seemingly to rid himself of the guilt over the murder of his brother, Hamlets father, the King of Denmark. The futility of Claudius efforts is reflected in these words, as it is known this is nothing more than an empty prayer. In selecting this quote, Ruscha desired to challenge the viewer to explore the relationship between spoken word and true intention of thought. Ruscha explained: “This noble quotation is as timeless as it is poetic. It is a quotation that is profound and yet simple. For me, it burns with curiosity.”

The white letters of the quotation are pristinely painted against a horizon of colors, beginning with the blue skies of heaven seamlessly transitioning into the burnt orange and red flames of hell. Ruscha’s choice of colors references Hamlet’s decision not to kill his uncle at the time of his repentance. It was believed that if one was killed during prayer, it would ensure entrance to heaven. Hamlet forgoes his emotions and decides to wait for an occasion when the king is indulging in an indecent activity, granting Claudius a death scorned with a tarnished soul that would never enjoy the virtues of heaven.



Edward Ruscha: Words Without Thoughts Never To Heaven Go
(RUSCHA, EDWARD). Ruscha, Edward, Bonnie Clearwater and Christopher Knight. Foreword by J. Patrick Lannan, Jr.. New York and Lake Worth, FL: Harry N. Abrams, Inc. and The Lannan Museum, 1988. First Edition 1/4000. Artist Monograph. 150pp, illustrated in color and b/w. Designed by Jack Woody. Published in conjunction with the 1988 Lannan Museum exhibition, this monograph details the process of creating Edward Ruscha’s "Words Without Thoughts Never To Heaven Go" murals commissioned by the Lannan Foundation for the Miami-Dade Public Library. ISBN#: 0-8109-2405-6 Arcana Books


Additional Information

Edward Ruscha: Selected Biographies on Art in Context

Edward Ruscha: Images on Art in Context

Edward Ruscha: Related Links on Art in Context


Edward Ruscha, American, (1937- )
b. December 16, 1937, Omaha, NE

Art in Context - Projects:
Art in Context - Art for the Day: December 16

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