WOW! – Work of the Week – John Baldessari – Zorro (Two Gestures and One Mark)

John Baldessari
Zorro (Two gestures One Mark)
Offset lithograph with screenprint and offset flip book
Sheet: 10 x 8 in.
Book: 3 7/8 x 5 7/8 in.
Edition of 60
Pencil signed and numbered

About the work:

John Baldessari pledged, in a 1970 groundbreaking work “I will not make anymore boring art.” This pledge was addressed to both his viewers but also to himself. He has remained true to his word, never shying away from new media, allowing his works to always retain a freshness and relevance that many younger artists struggle to match. Through his experimentations, he became responsible for the way many artists use appropriation in their work today. Kruger, Sherman and Salle are among the many that cite him as an influence. He is a giant of contemporary art.

This week’s Work of the Week! WOW! is Baldessari’s Zorro (Two Gestures and One Mark).

Zorro (Two Gestures and One Mark) is a lithograph with screenprinting accompanied by an artist flip book without commentary. The combination of the two brings to life trademark Hollywood imagery.

Baldessari is best known for works that blend photographic materials which are taken out of their original context and rearranged. He has spent his entire life living and working in California so it is not surprising that much of his works incorporate Hollywood film stills and other cinematic references. This particular piece features actors Jean-Paul Belmondo and Humphrey Bogart and the character Zorro.

This work requires the participation of the viewer, to take the book and flip it, which in turn reanimates the gestures of Humphrey Bogart and Jean-Paul Belmondo from movie stills. It is not a static piece.

The end result of flipping through the book is the actual artwork of art in which we see the imagery of Belmondo smoking a cigarette, and rubbing his lips with his thumb, Humphrey Bogart laughing before slowly becoming serious, and Zorro marking the Z on a wall with his sword.

Thus the work becomes two-part. The genius of the work is that it is a combination of film stills that the viewer has to flip through the book to get to the end result image, which is the artwork itself. A remarkably smart conceptual piece!

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 – Jasper Johns “Voice 2”


Voice 2
7 color lithograph
17 x 23 in.
Edition of 46

Pencil signed and numbered

About This Work:

Born in Georgia in 1930 and raised in Allendale, South Carolina, Jasper Johns grew up wanting to be an artist. He studied briefly at the University of South Carolina before moving to New York in early 1950’s.
In 1958, gallery owner Leo Castelli visited Rauschenberg’s studio and saw Johns’ work for the first time. Castelli was so impressed with the 28 year old painter’s ability and inventiveness that he offered him a show on the spot.
At that first exhibition, the Museum of Modern Art purchased three pieces, making it clear that at Johns was to become a major force in the art world.

Working in New York in the 1950s, Johns became part of a community of artists, including Robert Rauschenberg, that was seeking an alternative to the emotional nature of Abstract Expressionism.
The artwork of Jasper Johns can be considered a bridge between Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art. His ongoing stylistic and technical experimentation, his maps, flags, numbers, letters and targets laid the groundwork for Pop art, Minimalism, and Conceptual art. 

In the mid-1960’s, Johns executed a large painting and lithograph, both entitled Voice. He then returned to this theme in a very large, three-part painting called Voice 2, which he worked on from 1968 through 1971.
The composition of Voice 2 was broken into three panels with the thought that, by hanging the panels in different orders, the artist could simulate the experience of a viewer circumambulating a painted cylinder, beginning at different points. The three elements of Voice 2 were conceived such that they could be hung in varying sequences. They were based on the idea that, in conjunction, they formed a continuous cylindrical surface – a way of overcoming the two-dimensional character of painting.

With several different print versions of the canvas – this work, Voice 2, among them – Johns varied the colors and experimented with the placement of the rectangles making up each composition. The title of the work, which forms the imagery, can be read in a rotating cylindrical pattern.

Johns has always been fascinated with numbers, letters and words. In this work, he plays with the letters of the word VOICE in a very personal way, superimposing the figures to create a multiple image, so that each time the eye adjusts to focus on a letter the spectator perceives a slightly different picture.

These kind of works by Jasper Johns were extremely new to the museum goers and art lovers, especially at a time in which the art world was searching for new ideas.
Johns artworks were something which were never seen before. The distinct style, and the simplicity behind it, eventually captured the interest of the art world.

Johns is still one of most significant and influential American painters of the twentieth century, and also considered as one of the greatest printmakers of any era.
Over his 50 year career, Jasper Johns created his own distinct style, and a vast series of pieces, that not only were they ahead of their time, but also largely influenced other artists. To this day, his works still set some of the highest auction records, especially for a living artist.

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!