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Art News Magazine Cover – When artist John Baldessari died on Saturday at the age of 88, the art world suffered a great loss. To pay tribute to the famous concept artist,

Republishes a profile of Baldessari that appeared in our January 1 issue. The article examines Baldessari’s output, which often takes the form of humorous photographic works that favor ideas over images, and includes the words of some of his admirers, including fellow conceptualist Lawrence Weiner. who calls Baldessari “one of the least humanistic and intellectual artists”. In the United States. “The article is reprinted below with the author’s permission. – Alex Greenberg

Art News Magazine Cover

Art News Magazine Cover

John Baldessari says, “I’m constantly playing with changing it, I’m asking you to believe that the plane has turned into a mermaid at sea and a submarine…”

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The artist painted after painting, each one leaning on a packing crate and happily stamping his feet on each canvas. Portraits of friends, studies of pine trees, landscapes, still lifes, many abstracts, Pop-style paintings on scraps of billboards – 13 years of accumulated work, now in ruins, moved from the Jewish Museum to the morgue. A book-shaped set of ashes was placed behind a brass plaque: “John Anthony Baldessari, May 1953 – March 1966.”

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This gesture of destruction, completed in 1970, established Baldessari as one of the first conceptual artists. He quickly gained international attention by championing the superiority of ideas over execution in art.

“I stopped painting because I was afraid I would paint for the rest of my life,” Baldessari said. One can do beautiful things after a certain time

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Magazine Cover, 1926. /nfor An American Science Fiction Magazine. Cover By Frank R. Paul. Poster Print By Granger Collection

“At first I had the idea to make microdots out of each image and send them to my friends under postage stamps. But I thought it would be more of a phoenix to rise from the ashes. It sounds a little weird now, but at the time it seemed like a perfectly logical thing to do. I was surprised. I felt so free.”

Since 1970, Baldessari has been drinking scotch during a rare break in the Santa Monica studio. The absence of paintings and sculptures in the vast warehouse reflects his “post-atelier” aesthetic. The walls of three rooms are lined with bookshelves from floor to ceiling File cabinets complete the decor Behind the photographic darkroom is a small bedroom where a Sol LeWitt painting hangs above the bed like a crucifix. Baldessari was preparing to go to the Paris Biennale, where many of his works were on display “I travel so much, people in New York often think I live there According to my American Airlines statement, I flew 40,000 miles last year.

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Baldessari was one of the first artists to legitimize the creative use of images from popular media: television, film, newspapers, and advertising. He exhibits annually at Sonnabend Gallery in New York and often in Europe But in his hometown of Los Angeles, people still ask, “John

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? Oh yes. That tall man with white hair who goes to open everything His 1984 exhibition at the Margot Levine Gallery was actually his first solo exhibition in the city in the 1970s.

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Given the situation in Los Angeles, why is Baldessari staying? A sense of permission, says the artist. “Why not a fool there?” ‘Besides, I have to be a little angry to work, and L.A. It makes me angry. It’s not a beautiful city I get mad at artists for being so stupid and it works for me I am angry at the chauvinism of L.A “

Baldessari stands five feet tall, dignified, even professorial, with a white walrus mustache and beard. But his blue eyes are as mischievous as a child’s, and his hands look surprisingly gentle as he turns the pages of a catalog from his research in a German museum. He points to an illustration of one of his favorite works,

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(1976) consists of six cinematic stills: an airplane and a bird flying overhead; Two shots of a motor boat in the center enter frame left and leave frame right. And a man’s submarine and a mermaid resting at the bottom

“I wanted the work to be so layered and rich that you would have trouble synthesizing it,” explains Baldessari. “I wanted all the intellectual stuff to happen, and at the same time I’m asking you to believe that the plane turned into a mermaid in the ocean and a submarine while the speedboat was going. Visually or verbally I am constantly playing the game of changing this or that As soon as I see a word, I spell it backwards in my mind I take it apart and put the pieces together to make a new word ‘

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Baldessari, who once considered himself an art critic, has the flair of a writer, so his illustrations work on both a literary and visual level. They serve up contemporary narratives and subtly infuse myth, literature and metaphor into avant-garde contexts. Baldessari began working with photographs and text in the late 1960s At the same time, many artists decided to abandon material production in opposition to the heroic approach of the Abstract Expressionists and in rejection of what was seen as the widespread commercialization of the art world. The Minimalists adopted pure form as an alternative, and conceptualists like Baldessari chose pure content.

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In the early days, Baldessari was sometimes criticized for not being “pure” enough But his friend and fellow conceptualist Lawrence Weiner described him as “one of the most humanistic and intellectual artists in the United States. John is

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Pure reason he understands is based on the relationship between black people and how we as Americans understand our relationship with the world through various media. We think of every strange situation that we have seen in the movies It is the basis of our general public consciousness and how we see the world John works with archetypal awareness of media representation using material that affects everyday life. High art is useful to society and helps people understand and relate to the world As Weiner puts it, he is a “moral, responsible-Calvinian artist”.

Baldesari displays the image in the desktop browser The screen lights up with a composite black-and-white film, and the artist confesses to the plot:

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(1))) is an aerodynamic horizontal triptych of a man with a car hanging from his lips, a car (a long dragster called the “Goldenrod”) and a man on the edge of a diving board, contemplating a jump. The incongruity in the combination of literal names and completely strange and unrelated images makes us laugh As in most of Baldessari’s work, the dry wit has a powerful effect and leaves the impression that he is making fascinating art. “I think comedy is for laughs, and that’s not my intention,” Baldessari protested. I approach my work from a worldview that is slightly skewed ” Each image has both symbolic and literal value, like a visual poem. He explains, “I saw the man as a young soldier with a nail in his mouth, who was ready to be crucified. I wondered how long this practice would be – putting nails in your mouth would come back.

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Baldessari’s composite photographs represent the duality of order and chaos, a fundamental opposition that can be consistently found in his work since 1966. It is in the conflict of heaven and hell, birth and death, or love and hate – all fundamental opposites. Absorbed from Baldessari’s religion He attended church regularly in his 20s and once considered leaving art to accept a fellowship at Princeton Theological Seminary. He was always interested in how the world worked

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“Even in freshman philosophy class, I asked the teacher, ‘What order?'” recalls Baldessari, who attended San Diego State University. And if you know what order is, what is chaos? ’ He just looked at me, you know, like, one of the basic philosophical questions that this guy comes up with. At what point did chaos become order? Or is chaos another order? Or do we have to command it to perceive it?

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The biggest problem for me is boredom. Geminis are supposed to be boring and I jump from topic to topic It’s a constant feeling of unease that keeps me from finding order I can endlessly imagine something that is not traditionally ordered How interesting is the way we say, ‘That’s not a good picture.’ Why not? How related are our causes? I implement this in my art I am constantly qualifying. “

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Baldessari walks over to a large box with folders full of movies clearly categorized (“black”).

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