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John Baldessari: Pure Beauty

This exhibition is the biggest retrospective mounted in Spain of the work of John Baldessari (1931), one of the most notable and influential American artists.

Tuesday, 22.12.2009
21:00 (Cet)

 
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This exhibition is the biggest retrospective mounted in Spain of the work of John Baldessari (1931), one of the most notable and influential American artists. It contains over 130 works, some of them little known, and reviews the main concerns of this legendary artist who lives and works in Santa Monica (California) and has recently been awarded a Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale (2009). With humour and irony, his work dissects the ideas behind artistic practice and questions the accepted historical rules for making art. Fascinated by language and its meaning, he has never lost his interest in the relation between the visual and words. The combination of film, photography and painting is also a key element in his art. The exhibition opens with the early paintings that survived the Cremation Project (in 1970 he burnt all his work earlier than 1966, an action with which he wanted to celebrate his death as a painter, and from the ashes, kept in an urn in the form of a book, the Cremation Project emerged, a symbol of his artistic rebirth), followed by his photography-and-text works, including the combined photographs he took in the eighties from the extensive use of archive images from old films, the irregular, painted over works of the nineties and video. The exhibition concludes with his most recent works.

In the sixties, Baldessari put on canvas quotations taken from manuals and theories of contemporary art. The exhibition will include a number of those works. From the seventies he transferred his humorous search for a new visual language to film. In I Will Not Make Any More Boring Art (1971) Baldessari himself appears writing the same phrase over and over (“I will not make any more boring art”). That was the time when he began his experiments with collage and conceived series of images. In Blasted Allegories (1978) he explored the language of images by creating a dictionary of photographs taken at random from the television. The exhibition also shows the elaborate formal structures which he has increasingly introduced into his work and which have become a key component. Beyond the rectangular format of canvases and photographs, he has produced works which combine images to create new formats. He has carried out an intense and steady educational task training many other artists, from Matt Mullican to Rita McBride. On the occasion of the exhibition a catalogue will be published with texts by Bartomeu Marí, Jessica Morgan, Leslie Jones, Russell Ferguson, David Salle, Douglas Eklund, Marie de Brugerolle, John C. Welchman, Tim Griffin, Friedrich Meschede, Rainer Fuchs and Bice Curiger.

Miracle Chips by John Baldessari

It all began many years ago with an innocent interest in the way people like to anthropomorphize. Animals, objects, just about anything can be given human characteristics. Following his curiosity, John Baldessari was soon enough making his own pictures of objects with barely perceptible human features. Maybe they would be detected, maybe they wouldn’t. It was akin to seeing the Virgin Mary in a tortilla. Next came a series of noses and ears gleefully placed on colorful, flat, somewhat lumpy and rounded shapes: faces. Much to Baldessari’s surprise and our amusement, he recently looked again at these mustard and cobalt colored face shapes that populate his studio and came to a decisive conclusion: Potato chips! Those faces are potato chips!

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