The 100 #54 – John Baldessari …

John Baldessari (born 1931) is one of the most influential American conceptual artists alive today. Living and working in Santa Monica, California his output is prolific and varied and although I will only show his text based work I encourage you to explore his photo-montage, painting, photography, videos and artist’s books.

Baldessari’s text and image paintings from the mid-1960s are widely recognized as among the earliest examples of Conceptual Art and his approach to text reveals a deadpan substitute of words for image as well as visual juxtapositions of image and text that illuminate, confound, and challenge meaning.

Working with a surrealistically inspired humour he derails commonly held expectations of how images function. Throughout and continuing today, Baldessari’s interest in language, both written and visual, raises questions about the nature of communication.











For most of his career John Baldessari has also been a respected and influential teacher continuing to put an ironic twist on his text based works, as shown in his ‘I will not make any more boring art’ of 1971. Commissioned by the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Canada to produce an original, site-specific work, he suggested that the college students write the phrase “I will not make any more boring art” on the walls of the exhibition space.  As a response, Baldessari recorded himself writing the phrase repeatedly in a notebook for the duration of a videotape.

In this late work by Baldessari, one of a series entitled ‘Double Bill‘ he mixes and mashes art history masterpieces into hilariously original hybrids. To make these large inkjet prints, Baldessari chooses two paintings that strike his fancy, here they are David Hockney’s 1966 “Sunbather” and Max Ernst’s 1919 “Aquis Submersus.”

Next, he selected sections from each and melded them digitally, moving the background of the Hockney into the foreground and cropping the background out of the Ernst. Baldessari then eliminated distracting details by covering them with colour. Under the image he added the caption “… AND ERNST,” leaving viewers free to imagine more.

Your Name in Lights, a 2011 piece by Baldessari, gives people the opportunity to experience a glittering 15 seconds of fame by having their names on a giant illuminated sign. Each registered name is illuminated for 15 seconds on the 30-meter long L.E.D. sign. Your Name in Lights playfully reflects the fixation with celebrity in contemporary culture and recalls Andy Warhol’s oft-quoted statement from 1968, “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes”. “Warhol is so yesterday,” says John Baldessari. “Be a celebrity for 15 seconds!”

A major retrospective of Baldessari’s work appeared at the Tate Modern, London; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; and Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 2009–10.

All reproduced artwork shown is by John Baldessari. Images and information thanks to: Google Images / Wikipedia / / / /

The 100′ series was initiated by my 100th Post in April 2012. As text and images are the essence of my blog my intention is to present 100 pieces of textual art from historical and contemporary artists and from my own hand. To view the series to date click on ‘The 100’ in my Category Menu

10 thoughts on “The 100 #54 – John Baldessari …

  1. Really fun. I find myself oddly inspired. Hmm, that may be as close a definition of how I see myself as anything I’ve said in a long time 🙂


  2. Hmmm. You always provide food for thought John. Perhaps Art Takes Times Square was a bit ’15 seconds of fame’ a year later. I enjoy the ironic “I will not make any more boring art”. But I do prefer a bit of paint.


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