John Baldessari

Born 1931
Hometown National City, CA
Lives and Works Santa Monica, CA
Education
MA, San Diego State College, San Diego, CA
BA, San Diego State College, San Diego, CA

It's hard to overstate the impact that John Baldessari has had on the art of his time, in part because he has been something of an index case for a particular breed of conceptual art that has spread to all corners of the art world. Beginning in 1970, when he took all of his paintings from his San Diego studio—a decade's worth of work—and incinerated them as part of his "Cremation Project," Baldessari has systematically tested the boundaries of what can be considered art, creating strangely joyous works out of gestures as simple as hitting various things with a golf club (which he did for a series of photos), waving at ships (ditto), and placing dots over the faces of figures in old Hollywood film stills. As for how these documentations of conceptual gestures were able to function as art objects, well, Baldessari said, "the aesthetic takes care of itself."

These ideas and the resulting artworks that seethe with the tension between art and non-art—the tightrope that the artist has walked throughout his mature career—spread like wildfire in the 1970s, in large part because Baldessari held sway over the cutting-edge art program at the California Institute of the Arts, better known as CalArts. As a teacher there in the 1970s and '80s, he inspired a group of students that included James Welling, Matt Mullican, David Salle, Jack Goldstein, Tony Oursler, and Troy Brauntuch (several of whom became known as part of the "Pictures Generation") with a philosophy that drew deeply on the approach of Marcel Duchamp, making direct address to the viewer's mind rather than eye. Duchamp, after all, was something of a West Coast patron saint after the Pasadena Art Museum gave the French artist his first American retrospective in 1967—54 years after his Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 radicalized the East Coast.

Baldessari has said that "categories are meaningless," and over the course of his career he has ranged widely in his use of mediums, developing signatures styles as diverse as sculptural cut-canvas paintings presenting surrealistically isolated body parts (a nose, for instance), videos of himself performing repetitive tasks, and, most famously, his dot-obscured compositions of stock photos and film stills—an homage to the celluloid industry in his backyard conveying both a deep sense of alienation and playful whimsicality. Text work has also been an important part of his practice, beginning with his seminal 1971 print I Will Not Make Any More Boring Art, in which the artist had those words repeatedly scrawled in the manner of a disciplined middle-school student; other pieces combine text and image for destabilizing or perplexing juxtapositions.

That Baldessari has been true to his word regarding "boring art" is evident in his status today as one of the most celebrated artists alive. In 2009 he was awarded the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale, the art world's highest honor, and he has been the subject of many critically acclaimed retrospectives, including the 2010 show "John Baldessari: Pure Beauty." A multivolume catalogue raisonné is currently being assembled, with the first volume published in 2012.

Watch a brief video about John Baldessari's career

John Baldessari Gallery Art

Galleries

Marian Goodman, New York, NY
Margo Leavin, Los Angeles, CA
Sprüth Magers, Berlin, Germany and London, England

Permanent Collection

Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
Soloman R. Guggenheim Museum,New York, NY
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC
The Saatchi Gallery, London, Gallery

Works Available for Purchase

SHOWS

Articles

The Year Ahead: Expert Art Predictions for 2014
The Existential Hilarity of Jonathan Monk
An Insider's Guide to L.A.'s Art Scene
What Does Photography Even Mean Anymore, Really?
A Genealogy of Artists & Their Assistants
Alex Glauber on Lehman Brothers's Art Collection
10 of Art History's Most Important Defunct Galleries
How to Think About Conceptual Art
Rashid Johnson on His Ambitious Art
Sara Meltzer on the Artist-Designed Object's Rise
Shamim Momin on Helping Shape LA's Renaissance
6 Artworks to Invest in This February
Artist Aura Rosenberg on Finding Inspiration
10 Works That Show Conceptual Art's Evolution
6 Artworks to Invest in This November
How to Make John Baldessari's Soap Sculpture
John Baldessari's Unforgivingly Humorous Art
Five Art Park Retreats to Beat the City Heat
The Gachots on How the Internet Has Changed Décor
Steal vs. Splurge: 6 Irresistible Artworks
How to Buy an Artwork You’ll Love
How Art Can Add Light and Space to Your Home
Hollywood Scion Josh Roth on Collecting L.A. Art
Funny Strange or Funny Ha Ha?
The Art of the Fontainebleau: A Q&A
Christopher Williams on How to Excel as an Artist
9 Expert Tips for Building a Great Art Collection
10 West Coast Artists You Need to Know
Summer Reads: 9 Breezy Art Books for the Beach
If You Like Baldessari, You'll Love These Artists
The 7 Best MFA Painting Programs in the U.S.
7 Private Collections to Visit in London
10 of the Best Artworks at Frieze London 2016
If You Like Magritte, You'll Love These Artists

DISCOVER

a treasure trove of fine art from the world's most renowned artists, galleries, museums and cultural institutions. We offer exclusive works you can't find anywhere else.

LEARN

through exclusive content featuring art news, collecting guides, and interviews with artists, dealers, collectors, curators and influencers.

BUY

authentic artworks from across the globe. Collecting with us means you're helping to sustain creative culture and supporting organizations that are making the world a better place.

CONNECT

with our art advisors for buying advice or to help you find the art that's perfect for you. We have the resources to find works that suit your needs.

INSIDER ACCESS TO THE WORLD'S BEST ART

Artspace offers you authentic, exclusive works from world-renowned artists, galleries, museums and cultural institutions. Collecting with us helps support creative culture while bringing you art news, interviews and access to global art resources.

  • COLLECT FROM 300+ GALLERIES & MUSEUMS