John Baldessari is a prominent conceptual artist who has a respect for and a commitment to the representational visual image. He was born in National City, California, educated at Berkeley, UCLA, and San Diego State (B.A., M.A.), taught at Cal Arts for eighteen years and UCLA for eleven, and has long been a promoter of art made in California. He fuses photography, painting, and text into an often ironic context.
His work has been widely exhibited both in the United States and abroad. In 2009 he had a major retrospective entitled Pure Beauty which opened at the Tate Modern in London and traveled to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Museo d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona. It spanned fifty years of his work, with the earliest periods underrepresented due to The Cremation Project, occurring in 1970, in which the artist burned all of the earlier work in his possession, baked the ashes into cookies, and placed the cookies in an urn.
Baldessari has frequently chosen the book as a medium of artistic expression and has combined it successfully with works of art that are almost purely conceptual. An example is his Throwing Three Balls in the Air to Get a Straight Line (1973), a Duchampian exercise exploring both the structure and arbitrariness of language and of physical phenomena. In Tristram Shandy (1988), he used his familiar technique of blotting out faces on photographs to draw attention to other aspects of the actions depicted. His work with texts is not without irony, however, as with his painting called What is Painting, at the Museum of Modern Art, consisting entirely of painted words, and including the following sentence: “Art is a creation for the eye and can only be hinted at with words” (MoMA, Synthetic polymer on canvas, 68” x 57”).
Books with John Baldessari available from Boreas Fine Art:
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