Saturday, June 4, 2011

The John Baldessari Connection

John Baldessari, Cremation Project (Detail), 1970

Before leaving San Diego/National City for a teaching gig in Los Angeles, John Baldessari cremated most of his paintings. He left behind his past (artwork and process) to become a Conceptual artist in a new location. Although I wasn't thinking about it at the time, my pyre on the beach (minus leaving the ashes for the tide to take away) evokes a similar purpose. In regards to the VB project, I am starting my California trip in San Diego, the place my parents also left behind to start a new life elsewhere. I have always seen San Diego as a point of departure and although this has nothing directly to do with my personal history, it's worth exploring for these two reasons.

After perusing Pure Beauty with new vigor, these are the connections I have to Baldessari's work:

John Baldessari, The Backs of All the Trucks Passed While Driving from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara, California, Sunday, 20 January 1963

#1) The "every single" factor. ALL the trucks are recorded within a certain span of time (and therefore counted, catalogued, and organized into a grid). They record not just an experience with one object but a passage of time. [Incidentally, this is a commonality with Ed Ruscha as in his artist's book Every Single Building on the Sunset Strip.]

John Baldessari, Everything is Purged..., 1966-68

#2) Text indicating an idea but leaving the visual up to the viewer's imagination/mind. Again... "everything."

John Baldessari, Wrong, 1966-68

#3) Going against the grain of traditionally accepted practices. He makes it a rule to avoid what most artistic photographers would deem a deadly composition. This quote sums it up for me: "Probably one of the worst things that happened to photography is that cameras have viewfinders." - John Baldessari

John Baldessari, California Map Project, 1969

#4) Use of maps. Here Baldessari re-visualized the landscape based on a drawing that we all know and recognize - a map of California. There are two different versions of place represented. He also meddles with the land to create his letters which are so far from the original scale of the map "alphabet," it can't help but be seen as comical.

John Baldessari, Commissioned Paintings, 1969

#5) Humor/Literally pointing out the obvious. This work was created in response to a quote from the painter Al Held regarding his belief that Concpetual Art was all about pointing out things. Baldessari recreated that statement as a literal interpretation. Baldessari also makes it acceptable to make funny artwork. Thank you for that.

John Baldessari, Art History, 1970

#6) Referencing the past as a valid document of exploration. Even though this work isn't serious, it's all about art history. The text in the above work reads:

"A young artist had just finished art school. He asked his instructor what he should do next. 'Go to New York,' the instructor replied, 'and take slides of your work around to all the galleries and ask them if they will exhibit your work.' Which the artist did. He went to the gallery with his slides. Each director picked up his slides one by one, held each up to the light the better to see it, and squinted his eyes as he looked. 'You are not in the mainstream. We’re looking for Art History.' He tried. He moved to New York. He painted tirelessly, seldom sleeping. He went to museum and gallery openings, studio parties, and artists’ bars. He talked to very person having anything to do with art; traveled thought and read constantly about art. He collapsed.He took his slides around the galleries a second time. 'Ah,' the gallery directors said this time, 'finally you’re historical.'

Moral: Historical mispronounced sounds like hysterical."

John Baldessari, Cigar Smoke to Match Clouds That are the Same (by Sight-Side View), 1972-73

#7) Emulation through the dual nature of contrast/comparison. Again... humor. Photographing the photograph. The performative action.

John Baldessari, Throwing Three Balls in the Air to Get a Straight Line (Best of 36 Attempts), 1973

#8) Chance. Baldessari gave himself an assignment that risked possible failure. "Every single" photograph on a 36 exposure roll of film was dedicated to this action. Did he succeed? He did just by trying.

John Baldessari, Brutus Killed Caesar, 1976

#9) Repetition. This is evident in the "every single" factor and several of the images above but this category refers to it from a visual standpoint. There are two constants in Brutus Killed Caesar and the middle image is always changing, creating a new context. Same players, new story all based on a solitary object.

John Baldessari, Pencil Story, 1972-73

#10) The thoughtful question/the elevation of the lowly object to an artwork/a mundane activity all told through a story.

I have created quite a list with these ten connections. Not that I want to create artwork directly based on Baldessari, I am finding out that I indirectly already have.

1 comment:

  1. i couldn't get your email link to work for me on your site, so - here in the comments.

    if you want to get a drink in san diego and talk about setting things on fire, look me up.

    adrienne garbini


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