Monday, January 15, 2018

John Baldessari - making art look like it's not about skill

John Baldessari

The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s The Artist Project is a 2015 online series, supported by a Phaidon book, in which the museum gave artists an opportunity to respond to their encyclopedic collection.

I was drawn to John Baldessari's comments on Philip Guston’s 1973 painting, Stationary Figure.

It's macabre humour. It's a laugh that's also overshadowed by the thought of the brevity of life. A poetic mind would think that death is absurd and funny. There are elements of time: the light and the clock and the short duration of the cigarette. There's more light inside the room where he is than there is outside. It's like a prison cell.  He's almost in bondage with the bedclothes. - you might even call it a straightjacket. It's nightmarish, in some ways - being constrained and trapped in time. 

The painting is tough to like. I think that the average viewer is going to say. "Yeh my kid can do that." And that would be dismissive. I think it's brilliant: making art look like it's not about skill. He knew he was going to ruffle feathers and irritate people. I absolutely identify with his courage in doing that. It's one of the things I've always emphasised: don't be a virtuoso, and don't be a show-off.

I'll add to that - get up in the morning, go to your studio, make the work, chop the wood. 

You can see a video of Baldessari's comments HERE and go to The Mets The Artist Project HERE.

Philip Guston - Stationary Figure 1973

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