John Baldessari (b.1931) US
March 21, 2012
“Based in Los Angeles since the 1960s, John Baldessari (b. 1931) is one of the most influential artists of his generation. Making his name as a pioneer of conceptual art in the 1960s with his text and image paintings, he shocked the art world when he announced in a newspaper that he was cremating all the artworks he had produced between 1953 and 1966. He then turned his attention to photographic works often incorporating found film stills, trawling dumpsters for discarded material from which he created his famous photo-compositions. Baldessari’s lifelong interest in language, both written and visual, has been at the forefront of both his artwork and his teaching, through which, over more than thirty years, he has nurtured and influenced succeeding generations of artists. His work has had a huge influence on Cindy Sherman, David Salle, and Barbara Kruger among others. His works incorporate wit and irony, both mocking conceptual art and delivering it in his iconic work I Am Making Art; superimposing media images and painting with his trademark dots and over-painted figures in The Duress Series; and exploring the idea of subliminal images in advertising in his sequence of ice cubes containing the words of his name, ‘U-BUY BAL DES SARI’. (Tate 2009)”
“American artist John Baldessari rose to prominence in the late 1960s combining Pop Art’s use of imagery from the mass media with Conceptual Art’s use of language to create a unique body of work that has become a hallmark of postmodern art. Early in his career, Baldessari began incorporating images and texts in his photo-based art. He appropriated pictures from advertising and movie stills, juxtaposing, editing, and cropping them in conjunction with written texts. His resulting montages of photography and language often counter the narrative associations suggested by the isolated scenes and offers a greater plurality of meanings. The layered, often humorous compositions carry disparate connotations, underscoring how relative meaning can be (Deutsche Guggenheim 2005).”
1949-53 B.A., San Diego State College, California.
1954-55 University of California, Berkeley.
1955 University of California, Los Angeles.
1956 Andy Warhol establishing himself as an acclaimed graphic artist in the 1940s. In the 1950s he began painting and drawing. In 1952 Warhol “had his first solo exhibition at the Hugo Gallery, with Fifteen Drawings Based on the Writings of Truman Capote. As he matured, his paintings incorporated photo-based techniques he developed as a commercial illustrator. The Museum of Modern Art (among others) took notice, and in 1956 the institution included his work in his first group show (Warhol Foundation).”
1955-57 M.A., San Diego State College, California.
1957-59 Otis Art Institute, Los Angeles. Chouinard Art Institute, Los Angeles.
1960s “American artist John Baldessari rose to prominence in the late 1960s combining Pop Art’s use of imagery from the mass media with Conceptual Art’s use of language to create a unique body of work that has become a hallmark of postmodern art ().”
1961 Andy Warhol (1928–1987) known for his pop art, was trained as a commercial illustrator, Warhol became a renowned and sometimes controversial artist. In late 1961, he learned the process of silkscreening from Floriano Vecchi. Warhol worked with a blown up photographs which were then transferred with glue onto silk. He started with U. S. dollar bills and later did silkscreens of Campbell’s Soup cans. “Building on the emerging movement of Pop Art, wherein artists used everyday consumer objects as subjects, Warhol started painting readily found, mass-produced objects, drawing on his extensive advertising background. When asked about the impulse to paint Campbell’s soup cans, Warhol replied, “I wanted to paint nothing. I was looking for something that was the essence of nothing, and that was it”. The humble soup cans would soon take their place among the Marilyn Monroes, Dollar Signs, Disasters, and Coca Cola Bottles as essential, exemplary works of contemporary art.”
1964 Baldessari produced “Art Lesson” in which he mocked art manuals.
1966 Thirty-five year old John Baldessari shocked the art world when he announced in a newspaper that he was cremating all the artworks he had produced between 1953 and 1966.
1966 “Tips for Artists Who Want to Sell, 1966-1968” [See slideshow, Image 1] derives from Baldessari’s interest in the rules by which one creates; specifically, the delimited structures of subject and composition encouraged/discouraged by the craft-orientated publications on painting and photography of the time. In this work, Baldaessari deconstructs the rubric of an “acceptable” and/or more commercially viable picture. This brings to mind Deleuze’s arguments on creation. True creation is not a given to process, but moreover, a rare development that expands the perceptual lexicon of an age; to take us to where we have not yet been (“John Baldessari: Pure Beauty.” Immanent Terrain).”
1966-1968 Baldessari produced “Econ-O-Wash, 14th and Highland, National City, Calif. “For this photograph on canvas, not only does the image [shot haphazardly out the driver-side door of his passing car] violate compositional clarity of subject, but the parameters of the canvas are dictated by the dimensions of the time/space considerations of the environment in which the image resides. Deleuze argued that “true creation is not a given to process, but moreover, a rare development that expands the perceptual lexicon of an age; to take us to where we have not yet been (“John Baldessari: Pure Beauty.” Immanent Terrain).”
1967 Baldessari produced “Art Lesson #3” in which he mocked art manuals.
1967-1968 John Baldessari Produced “Quality Material. . .” which resold at Christie’s New York auction for $4,408,000 in May 16, 2007
1967-1970 University of California, San Diego. San Diego, CA. Professor of Art.
1970-1988 California Institute of the Arts. Valencia, CA. Professor of Art.
1968 French philosopher Gilles Deleuze (1925-1995) published his magnum opus, a metaphysical treatise entitled Difference and Repetition. This book along with Logique du sens (1969), was reviewed by influential philosopher Michel Foucault in his book entitled Language, Counter-Memory, Practice: Selected Essays and Interviews. In the chapter entitled “Theatrum Philosophicum” he argued that the 20th century would be Deleuzian. Deleuze developed his “metaphysics adequate to contemporary mathematics and science—a metaphysics in which the concept of multiplicity replaces that of substance, event replaces essence and virtuality replaces possibility (SEP).”
1969 Sol LeWitt published his book entitled Sentences on Conceptual Art in which he argued, “Irrational thought should be followed absolutely and logically.”
1970 John Baldessari exclaimed to his students at California Institute of the Arts. Valencia, CA, “It’s not Warhol who is the most important artist of the 1960s, but Godard!” Baldessari argued that film was the most influential medium in the field of contemporary art. Many artists since then became deeply inspired by the language of cinema and its visual codes, which they incorporate into their work (Image Movement store).
1971 “I will not make anymore boring art.” Black and white video of Baldessari writing out this phrase like a schoolboy being punished for bad behaviour.
1971 Baldessari produced a video entitled “I am making art” in which he moved spasmodically while repeating for 20 minutes that he is making art.
1972 John Baldessari made a video of himself entitled “LeWitt” in which he sings quotes from from Sol LeWitt’s publication entitled, “Sentences on Conceptual Art (1969).” As usual when Baldessari engages with a theoretical problem he “foremost proceeds with a sense of humor, a wink and a nudge (“John Baldessari: Pure Beauty.” Immanent Terrain).”
1972 “In Choosing [A Game for Two Players]: Carrots, 1972 [See slideshow, Image 3], Baldessari sought, through a loose control group, which of three carrots, placed and thereby judged in varying orders, would be selected as the most ideal specimen of “carrot.” The experiment plays with our perceptual faculties of difference and distinction and begs to question the arbitrary nature of our curatorial instincts. Carrots resonates with the philosophy of Deleuze and Bergson in so far as the relational aspects of ‘this as well as that’ is implied in the frame of any-space whatever (“John Baldessari: Pure Beauty.” Immanent Terrain).”
1970s “It was during the 1970s that Baldessari began to utilize other peoples’ photographs in his work rather than his own snapshots: “What got me interested in found imagery was that it was not considered art, but just imagery, and I began dumpster diving in photo shops.” Finding that film stills, as well as publicity shots and press materials, were readily available, Baldessari gathered images in abundance (Deutsche Guggenheim 2005).”
1974 Baldessari produced a series of Eight black-and-white photographs of knots (16 x 40 inches overall size) entitled “Portrait: These Are Knot Portraits.” referencing Magritte’s painting entitled “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” and Michel Foucault’s book entitled “This is not a Pipe (1968).”
1977 Michel Foucault published his book entitled Language, Counter-Memory, Practice: Selected Essays and Interviews. In the chapter entitled “Theatrum Philosophicum” he argued that the 20th century would be Deleuzian.
1996-2007 University of California, Los Angeles. Los Angeles, CA. Professor of Art.
1983 Gilles Deleuze wrote his seminal book entitled Cinéma I: L’image-mouvement [Trans. Cinema 1: The Movement-Image (1986)]. In this, the French philosopher and art theorist, emphasizes the medium film as a modern concept of movement to be “capable of thinking the production of the new.” Exactly this restructuring and alternative classification of signs, symbols and images through cinema and film is what fascinated artists of the of the 20th and 21st century (Image Movement store). Cinéma I: L’image-mouvement (1983). Trans. Cinema 1: The Movement-Image (1986).
1984 Baldesseri produced “Man and Woman With Bridge” which revealed his interest in the associative dimensions of montage. Baldessai explained that, “The subject is the space between, the magnetic field created by the peripheral poles. A way to scrutinize relationships…”(Image Movement store).” Baldessari’s “1980s compositions deriving from film stills rank as pivotal to the development of art and other practices which address social and cultural impact of the mass culture (ars magazine).”
1984 Baldesseri produced Pelicans Staring at Woman With Nose Bleeding which revealed his interest in the associative dimensions of montage. He explained, “As soon as you put together two things you have a story (Image Movement store).”
2005 “American artist John Baldessari rose to prominence in the late 1960s combining Pop Art’s use of imagery from the mass media with Conceptual Art’s use of language to create a unique body of work that has become a hallmark of postmodern art. Early in his career, Baldessari began incorporating images and texts in his photo-based art. He appropriated pictures from advertising and movie stills, juxtaposing, editing, and cropping them in conjunction with written texts. His resulting montages of photography and language often counter the narrative associations suggested by the isolated scenes and offers a greater plurality of meanings. The layered, often humorous compositions carry disparate connotations, underscoring how relative meaning can be ( (Deutsche Guggenheim 2005).”
2007 John Baldessari produced “Beethoven’s Trumpet (With Ear) Opus # 133” a sculpture made of resin, fibreglass, bronze, aluminium, and electronics (186 x 183 x 267 cm) shown at the Saatchi.
“John Baldessari’s practice explores ideas around communication. Some of his signature works are conceptual juxtapositions of text and images that demonstrate the enormous associative power of language in the way that art is interacted with and understood. His works have paired statements with found photographs to humorously exploit the game-like way in which narrative can be arbitrarily created by language and visuals. Beethoven’s Trumpet (With Ear) Opus # 133 (2007) is a large-scale work about the paradox of communication’s incomplete nature – a sculptural sound piece about a deaf composer. It was one of the artist’s first sculptures. “I was asked to do a retrospective show in 2007 in Bonn with all the works I’d done about music. Bonn is the birthplace of Beethoven and I visited his house and he had a whole cabinet of ear trumpets that he used. I was really fascinated with them as sculptural forms, especially one that he had designed himself that I thought was quite beautiful. And then for maybe four or five years I’ve been doing these works about body parts and I think it started out with noses and ears, so ears were on my mind. And then probably there was one of those three o’clock in the morning moments when you are awake and all of a sudden I thought, ‘wait a minute – ear/ear trumpet’ (Saatchi. ).”
Baldessari’s epiphany and Magritte-like montage of associations creates a piece highlighting how meaning is created through senses beyond the traditionally privileged one, vision – the work is silent until the viewer speaks into the trumpet at which point a section from Beethoven’s six last quartets will be heard.
But if this is Beethoven’s deaf ear, is the meaning of what is said even connected to the sound that will be heard, and what does the randomness of the fragments indicate? The paradox of communication is once again left up to the viewer to resolve”
2009 John Baldessari exhibition entitled Raised Eyebrows/ Furrowed Foreheads opened at the Marian Goodman Gallery in New York. In an interview the artist discussed his life-long obsession with the distinction between parts and wholes, as well as his reductive philosophy of art-making. Synthesizing photomontage, painting, and language, Baldessari’s deadpan visual juxtapositions equate images with words and illuminate, confound, and challenge meaning. He upends commonly held expectations of how images function, often by drawing the viewer’s attention to minor details, absences, or the spaces between things.” A catalogue with text by Robert Storr was published.
2009-2010 John Baldessari’s exhibition entitled “Pure Beauty” featured c.150 pieces – works on canvas, photographs, videos and artist’s books was held at the Tate. In the exhibition catalogue Baldessari explained the process and philosophy behind his series entitled “Econ-O-Wash, 14th and Highland, National City, Calif (1966-8).
“Some of the photographs were originally taken for non-art use, some were taken to violate then-current photographic norms, and others were taken by pointing the camera blindly out the window while driving.” For his photo-text works, he prescribed conditions in which he made a limited number of aesthetic decisions. He captured the snapshot of the local car wash, without the aid of a viewfinder, to record the ordinary, unglamorous environs of his hometown, illustrating his conviction that “truth is beautiful no matter how ugly.” He then recorded the location for the caption, which was installed by a professional sign painter. The images were neither edited nor retouched in any way. The only “art signal” was the canvas support, and its format was determined by the maximum size that could fit through the doors of Baldessari’s Volkswagen bus (Metropolitan Museum exhibition catalog, Pure Beauty).”