Remembering John Baldessari With These Works From Our Marketplace

January 8, 2020

John Baldessari, an acclaimed American conceptual artist with a distinct sense of humor, died on January 2nd, 2020 aged 88.

One of the leading figures and determining forces of the late 1960s conceptualism, Baldessari relied heavily on the linguistic play and upon appropriating and recontextualizing images. In this way, he disrupted the relationship between sign and signified, between convention and unconscious meaning.

Juxtaposing painting, text, video, sculpture and more with color and humor, Baldessari saw his work as a counter to what he saw as a po-faced conceptual art scene. Throughout his career, the artist had been questioning the very notion of art and artistic practice. As he explained, he “was able to dig into what I thought art might be, not what somebody else would think art would be”. The resulting pieces are complex compositions that explore the multifaceted interpretations of cultural iconography with his signature sense of humor. In a 2013 interview with David Salle, a longtime friend and former student of his, Baldessari explained:

I don’t try to be funny. It’s just that I feel the world is a little bit absurd and off-kilter and I’m sort of reporting.

Baldessari was also central to shaping the Los Angeles cultural scene through his art and decades of pedagogy. He taught the likes of David Salle, Barbara Bloom, Jack Goldstein and Meg Cranston and held posts at the California Institute of the Arts and the University of California, Los Angeles.

To remember this highly influential artist, we have created a selection of his works that highlights the diversity of his practice. Each of these pieces can also become a part of your collection right now.

Featured image: John Baldessari, 2009. All images courtesy of their respective galleries.

Noses & Ears, Etc. (Part Four)- Two Persons (One Altered) with Yellow Space, 2007

This work is part of the series titled Noses & Ears, Etc, a group of digital photographic prints over-painted with acrylic paint and collage elements. As Baldessari explained, this body of work continues his fascination with color, but also, the relation of photography to painting, and viewing the picture plane on three levels rather than the conventional single plane.

Perhaps these works can be seen as not painting, photography or sculpture, but a melding of all three.

Buy the work here.

Sex and Crime, 1996

Titled Sex and Crime, this poster was created for John Baldessari's exhibition titled Von den Verhaltnissen der Menschen. It was held at the Sprengel Museum in Hannover from February until May 1996.

Buy the work here.

Look At Me, 2017

Titled Look at Me, this 2017 work reprises a combination of text and image, melding the motif of a windmill and a wind farm with a textual field in contrasting color, referring to Miguel de Cervantes’ novel Don Quijote. In this unique relationship between text and image, a text explains an image and an image illustrates a text.

Buy the work here.

Chair, 2015

Created in 2015, Chair is another of Baldessari's works which undermines the fundamental concept behind our conventional reading habits. The juxtaposition of an image and text is baffling, with associations that open up a broad spectrum of possible interpretations and surprising new perceptions.

Buy the work here.

Learn to Dream, 2011

Learn to Dream from 2011 repeats a phrase Baldessari has been coming back to multiple times throughout his career, encouraging us to actively dream, to deliberately engage with the creative, the irrational, and the hopeful. These words are placed across horizontal bands of yellow, black, cyan, and light blue, and rendered in the typeface "Churchward Montezuma 96 Extra Bold" designed by New Zealand typographer Joseph Churchward.

Buy the work here.

Tiger with No Stripes

In this poster titled Tiger with No Stripes, the original color was subtracted, leaving the negative space which invites the public to collaborate and color-in the work themselves. Anyone can stamp, draw, paint, and adorn their artwork onto this poster or leave it as is.

Buy the work here.

Marilyn, 2016

The title of this work from 2016 is intentionally misleading. Baldessari doesn't actually use the image of Marilyn Monroe as its point of departure but instead a printed portrait, inverted left-to-right, that Francis Picabia painted in 1933 of Suzy Solidor, a Parisian singer and nightclub owner who was in those days famous (and infamous). However, both Marilyn and Suzy were stars and starlets, two iconic figures representing the partialities of their eras.

Buy the work here.

Morsels And Snippets- Smoked White Corn Veloute, 2013

In this work, Baldessari once again juxtaposes text and image in an unexpected way, encouraging the viewer to make their own interpretation of the work.

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Engravings with Sounds- SOB, GRUNT, CLACK, SNEEZE, URG, TOOT, 2015

For this edition of six works titled Engravings with Sounds, Baldessari used images selected from 16th-century engravings, transforming each of these new works by introducing expressive sounds, expanding his range one step further.

Buy the work here.

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