John Baldessari

John Baldessari Photo

American conceptual artist, John Baldessari is popular for his photography based on particular ideas, hence the idea creates the art. He was born in June 1931 in California. He lives and works in California, Venice and Santa Monica.

Baldessari taught in schools, colleges and universities for three decades since 1959. He taught at CalArts from 1970 to 1986 and then moved to teaching at UCLA till 2008.

He was initially a painter who had begun to combine photography and text on canvas in the 1960s. Then by 1970, he started working with film, video, photography, printmaking and sculpture.  His work has been displayed in more than 200 solo exhibitions in Europe and the United States.

John Baldessari made his first print, I Will Not Make Any More Boring Art, in 1971, to raise funds for Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. At an exhibition, Baldessari requested his students to write this phrase on the gallery walls. Since then, he has worked internationally with leading publishers like, Peter Blum Editions, New York; Mixografia, Los Angeles; Multiples Inc.,  New York; Gemini G.E.L., Los Angeles; Edition Jacob Samuel, Santa Monica; Crown Point Press, San Francisco; Cirrus Editions, Los Angeles; Book Alexander Editions, New York;  and Arion Press, San Diego. In his prints, Baldessari expertly collages unrelated images to propose a puzzling undercurrent. Later in the 1990s, he worked with Mixografia Workshop to create 3D prints making use of their distinctive printing process from metal molds. In 2008, he contributed to a portfolio called Artists for Obama.

Apart from this, Baldessari documented a 1971 performance, Police Drawing Project, in to a film named Police Drawing. A year later, he offered a tribute to Sol LeWitt, artist. The artists lines from 35 statements on conceptual art were sung to the tunes of famous songs. Some of the other films are the Inventory and Teaching a Plant the Alphabet.

The first solo exhibition of John Baldessari happened in Los Angeles in 1968 at the Molly Barnes Gallery. Then onwards many exhibitions of his work happened around the world. The artist’s works are part of most important private and public collections, including the Broad Collection, the Museum of Modern Art, , the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Guggenheim Museum and , the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. From 1998 to 2012, he has received thirteen awards.

To a surprise, in 1970, Baldessari set all of the paintings he made from 1953 to 1966 on fire and recreated a new piece of art, The Cremation Project. With this, the artist connects the human life cycle with artistic practices.

John Baldessari is known for his work that blends photographs by extracting them from their original milieu and rearranging the form. He also added text and lines to such pieces. Examples of this are the Wrong series, 1996 to 1968; California Map Project, 1969; and Binary Code series.

Most of the works of Baldessari involve ‘pointing’. He leads the viewer into ways of looking, selecting and comparing. After he got to know about a criticism against conceptual art, that it is all and only about pointing – Baldessari mocked the very criticism. He created photos of a hand pointing at different objects. He then employed amateur artists to paint pictures and lastly he added a caption “a painting by…” and painter’s name to each complete painting.

John Baldessari has been an influential artist in the art world and beyond it as well and his paintings have been appreciated by every generation.


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