Friday, October 2, 2009

Baldessari at Tate Modern

John Baldessari is one of my favorite artists and his show Pure Beauty at the Tate Modern is a very good reason to visit London anytime between October 13 and January 10.

Based in Los Angeles since the 1960s, John Baldessari (b. 1931) is one of the most influential artists of his generation. Making his name as a pioneer of conceptual art in the 1960s with his text and image paintings, he shocked the art world when he announced in a newspaper that he was cremating all the artworks he had produced between 1953 and 1966. He then turned his attention to photographic works often incorporating found film stills, trawling dumpsters for discarded material from which he created his famous photo-compositions.

Baldessari's lifelong interest in language, both written and visual, has been at the forefront of both his artwork and his teaching, through which, over more than thirty years, he has nurtured and influenced succeeding generations of artists. His work has had a huge influence on Cindy Sherman, David Salle, and Barbara Kruger among others. His works incorporate wit and irony, both mocking conceptual art and delivering it in his written work I Will Not Make Any More Boring Art; superimposing media images and painting with his trademark dots and over-painted figures in The Duress Series; and exploring the idea of subliminal images in advertising in his sequence of ice cubes containing the words of his name, 'U-BUY BAL DES SARI'.

There is also a splendid 324 page hardback catalogue, now available on Amazon for US$52.50. Amazon says of it, "more than 400 illustrations are presented in full colour in this monograph published in conjunction with a major exhibition organised by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Tate Modern in London. Eleven essays by critics, curators, art historians, and an artist and former student of Baldessari's round out this volume. Few contemporary artists have achieved the range and relevance of Baldessari's oeuvre, which is finally given its due in this elegant retrospective book."

And not all, there is also a 408 page Catalogue Raisonne, 1971 - 2007, of Baldessari's prints due for publication in December.

The image is Baldessari's God Nose, 1965

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