Ed Ruscha is one of the most inventive American artists of the past 50 years. Based in Los Angeles, Ruscha gained international attention in the 1960s for his paintings of words. Several of the artist’s paintings from this period present images of distorted or damaged words. Hurting the Word Radio (1964) consists of a pale blue ground over which the word ‘radio’ is spelled out in decal-like letters, the first and last of which appear as rubbery forms squeezed out of shape by metallic C-clamps. While the title initially seems deliciously absurd – how can a word be hurt? – the image of pinched, fleshy letters is almost painful to look at, and effectively alters as well as interferes with our reading of the word itself. In adding visual static to the ‘radio’ signal, this work suggests more than a damaged communication, however; it also conjures the artist’s task of breaking down standardised forms in order to generate potential new meanings.