WOW! – Work of the Week – John Baldessari – I Saw It

John Baldessari
I Saw It
17 3/8 x 14 3/8 in.
Edition of 100
Pencil signed, dated and numbered

About the work:

‘Why not give people what they understand most, which is the written word and the photograph.’ John Baldessari

For decades, John Baldessari has pioneered “conceptual art,” an art where it’s the idea that matters over the traditional cannons of aesthetics, techniques and materials. A chief claim of conceptualism is that skill is irrelevant and the idea from the artist’s head becomes art in the mind of the viewers as they try to figure out what they are seeing. The style is accepted as the extreme end of the highly intellectual avant-garde movement, which encompasses Cubism, Dadaism, Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism and Pop.

As one of the most influential artist’s working today, Baldessari has successfully removed his own hand from his works in order to couple text with pre-existing images. His commercial, static style allows the unornamented text and appropriated image to impact the viewer without distraction. Images and texts behave in similar ways, both using formulas to convey their messages. The juxtaposition of both narratives in Baldessari’s work acts as a dual and complimentary means of communication, very similar to the methods used in the press. However, contrary to the press, Baldessari’s unique interplay between two kinds of information is amusing, often creating riddles or jokes. 

This week’s Work of the Week! WOW! is I Saw It, which is a prime example of Baldessari’s tongue-in-cheek humor. 

In this work, the artist pairs the image of a light fixture with the all caps words “I SAW IT.” The image is not an illustration of the text below it. The text is instead used to make the full range of the image available to the viewer. It is only upon reading the text that the light fixture loses its common identity and function to become a UFO. The humor in Baldessari’s work is a result of the subjection of ordinary everyday objects which take on unexpected meanings and messages. 

John Baldessari is able to look beyond what is there, which opens the possibility for others to see things they normally wouldn’t. He avoids “good taste” and allows us to smile, if not laugh, through providing a new context. Just as the best humor is based on the unpredictable, the purpose of art, Baldessari has said, is to keep us “perpetually off-balance.”

Over the course of his career, Baldessari has been challenging audiences to reconsider the nature of art, with wit, humor and a captivating visual sense. And although he has played a crucial role in such major movements as conceptual art and appropriation art, perhaps his greatest contribution is “leveling the playing field,” encouraging viewers to take an active role in the construction of meaning.

WOW – Work Of the Week – John Baldessari “Large Door”

Hegel s Cellar Portfolio -  Large Door

John Baldessari
Large Door
Photogravure and aquatint on torn Rives BFK aper
20 x 38 in.
Edition of 35

Pencil signed and numbered

About This Work:

“Fingerprints and footprints can be repeated, and that’s why I make prints endlessly”  – John Baldessari

John Baldessari has created a formidable body of editions and artist’s books in his lifetime. His irreverent and playful prints require an intellectual workout as rigorous as any other medium in which he chooses to work.

A self-described “failed writer” who “builds with images the way a writer builds with words”, Baldessari’s work is concerned with the idea of visual information as signifier and a means of communication, combining stock imagery, colors, and text to create intricate and taut visual ambiguities. His aim is to create enough “tension” between found images in order to illicit questions and curiosity.

Using found photographs as source material – primarily stock images from early Hollywood films, newspaper photographs, and postwar advertising –  Baldessari was drawn to the generic nature of such images, their role in creating a shared visual culture, and the power they have to reveal subconscious thoughts and uncover the viewer’s “emotional baggage”.

In 1986, Baldessari created a series of 10 prints, to do just that. This series, entitled Hegel’s Cellar, used stock imagery in montages to examine Hegel’s theory of an “abyss (or cellar) as a psychic space where one preserve[s] images unconsciously” (Wendy Weitman in The Prints of John Baldessari: A Catalogue Raisonne 1971–2007, pp. 23-24).

The idea was brought out while Baldessari was in psychotherapy at the time, and he had started to let emotion (but not his own emotions) into his work. The presence of fear, anxiety, lust, horror, and other states was a new element, but their frequently jarring context was not; he was on the lookout for the unexpected associations generated by random images in close proximity.

This week’s Work Of the Week (WOW) is Large Door, from Hegel’s Cellar.

Faced with the dilemma or option of either being killed or stepping into the abyss, represented by a large black rectangle of equal proportion as the men on both sides carrying pistols, Baldessari is challenging the viewer to fill in the blanks.

WOW – Work Of the Week – John Baldessari “Person On Horse And Person Falling From Horse (With Audience)”

Intersection Series (Person On Horse Person Falling From Horse with Audience) stock

Person On Horse And Person Falling From Horse (With Audience)
Chromogenic print on archival paper
15 1/2 x 14 1/2 in.
Edition of 150

Signed, dated and numbered in ink

About This Work:

Known as the Godfather of Conceptual Art, John Baldessari has defied formalist categories by working in a variety of media — creating films, videotapes, prints, photographs, texts, drawings, and multiple combinations of these. In his use of media imagery, Baldessari is a pioneer “image appropriator”, and as such has had a profound impact on post-modern art production.

Born on June 17, 1931 in National City, CA, John Baldessari has been instrumental in the West Coast art scene. His artwork has influenced a generation of conceptual artists like Cindy Sherman, Barbara Kruger, David Salle and many other younger artists.

He may be best known as the artist that “Put dots over people’s faces”, but through his diverse practice that includes paintings, sculpture, and installations, the artist shaped the Conceptual Art landscape. By blending photography, painting, and text, Baldessari’s work examined the plastic nature of artistic media while offering commentary on our contemporary culture.

What John Baldessari does, is he fuses photography, montage, painting and text to create complex compositions that explore the several interpretations of cultural iconography. He sources his wide range imagery from the larger visual world, primarily finding inspiration in advertising and film.

This work, Person On Horse And Person Falling From Horse (With Audience), from the Intersection Series, is a perfect example of the manner in which Baldessari deconstructs found images of action and perception stereotypes of the mass media.

This series features contrasting collaged images enclosed in rectangles and juxtaposed, each one with a different theme and title. The superposition of several image sections results in a complete “cinematic” sequence: under the eyes of two applauding spectators a cowboy falls from his horse, while the Indians remains firmly in power.

In order to subvert common associations, John Baldessari brings one’s attention to minute details, absurd juxtapositions, and obscured or fragmented portions of such imagery. His artistic process focuses on the perception and interpretation of visual elements and text, while often employing irony to make playful assertions about how meanings and interpretations are formed. 

The Intersection Series work blends photographic materials such as these film stills, which Baldessari takes out of their original context, and rearranges their form.

We have also attached a link to a video Called the “History of John Baldessari”.

It is a 5 minute video narrated by muscian Tom Waits.

It is very entertaining, informative, and very funny!!! 

Please have a look and enjoy!  

WOW! – Work of the Week 7/27/15

John Baldessari, Two Unfinished Letters

Two Unfinished LettersJohn Baldessari
Two Unfinished Letters
Screenprint and lithograph on Arches 88 paper with slight deckle
33 1/2 x 21 in.
Edition of 80
This piece is signed and numbered in ink.

About This Work:

John Baldessari makes art that forces people to think. He presents the viewers with enigmatic compositions that suggest manifold interpretations but dictate none. Perhaps his most consistent objective over a half-century of work has been his desire to redirect ways of seeing, challenge how we look at the world, by proposing unexpected scenes or spotlighting the mundane and underrecognized.

In Two Unfinished Letters, John Baldessari depicts eight movies scenes where people are holding pieces of paper, bringing our attention to the various ways people both handle and read letters. Something that more often than not goes unnoticed, but has been integral in the way we communicate.

About John Baldessari:

Throughout his career, John Baldessari has defied formalist categories by working in a variety of media—creating films, videotapes, prints, photographs, texts, drawings, and multiple combinations of these. In his use of media imagery, Baldessari is a pioneer “image appropriator,” and as such has had a profound impact on post-modern art production. 

Born in 1931, John Baldessari studied art, literature, and art history at San Diego State College and the University of California, Berkeley.  Baldessari initially studied to be an art critic at the University of California, Berkeley during the mid 1950s, but growing dissatisfied with his studies, he turned to painting. Inspired by Dada and Surrealist literary and visual ideas, he began incorporating photographs, notes, texts, and fragments of conversation into his paintings. Baldessari remains fundamentally interested in de-mystifying artistic processes, and uses video to record his performances, which function as “deconstruction experiments.” These illustrative exercises target prevailing assumptions about art and artists, focusing on the perception, language, and interpretation of artistic images.  

Allowing pop-cultural artifacts to function as “information,” as opposed to “form,” Baldessari’s works represented a radical departure from, and often a direct critique of, the modernist sensibility that dominated painting for decades.