The Los Angeles of John Baldessari, 1931-2020

Baldessari highlighted the aspects of humanity that oft fell to the background. This started a unique dialogue within the realm of contemporary art and began right here in his Los Angeles studio. We honor his life and career.

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In between things. The intersection of unlikely subjects. The cracks in our everyday. John Baldessari loved these places. He sought them out through his artistic practice. His work became a means to understand our world better by exposing the seemingly mundane and the regularly overlooked. Through the usage of simple techniques such as bold text paired with unexplained imagery, unexpected colours added to otherwise dull scenes, or pairs of images in apparent resistance towards one another, Baldessari highlighted aspects of humanity that oft fell to the background. This started a unique dialogue within the realm of contemporary art, and began right here in his Los Angeles studio. 

A Californian by birth, Baldessari chose to plant himself in and around the LA for what appears to be very strategic reasons. After stints teaching at various art schools, his legacy was forged most deeply at UCLA, where he mentored an impressive roster of students who have become the face of American contemporary art. In fact, it can be (and is) said that Baldessari was responsible for the renaissance of art in Los Angeles. The sense of humour in his pieces, the embracing of the absurd and the boring, have always felt so quintessentially LA and perhaps always will. LA at its core is a city filled with opposites, we have no trouble finding ‘beauty’ in unexpected places. The same can be said for Baldessari’s pieces. Beyond the compositional genius, Baldessari’s pieces reveal what it looked like to be a human who observed thoughtfully, and without restraint; and who embraced all of the quirks and nuances of a richly varied home.

The Backs of All The Trucks Passed While Driving From Los Angeles To Santa Barbara, California. Sunday 20 January 63. 1963. Courtesy of John Baldessari Estate.
The Spectator is Compelled… 1966-68. Courtesy of John Baldessari Estate.
Tips for Artists Who Want To Sell. 1966-68. Courtesy of John Baldessari Estate.
Pure Beauty. 1966-68. Courtesy of John Baldessari Estate.
What Is Painting. 1966-68. Museum of Modern Art, New York.
I Will Not Make Any More Bring Art. 1971. Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Kiss/Panic. 1984. Courtesy of John Baldessari Estate.
Untitled. 1986. Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Bloody Sundae. 1987. Courtesy of John Baldessari Estate.
Planets (Chairs, Observer, White Paper). 1987. Courtesy of John Baldessari Estate.
Rollercoaster. 1989-1990. Museum of Modern Art, New York.
e.g. Grass, Water Heater, Mouths & etc. (for John Graham). 1994. Museum of Modern Art, New York.
The Overlap Series: Jogger (With Cosmic Event). 2000-2001. Courtesy of John Baldessari Estate.
Noses & Ears, Etc: Blood, Fist And Head (With Nose And Ear). 2006. Courtesy of John Baldessari Estate.
Prima Facie (Fifth State): Warm Brownie / American Cheese / Carrot Stick / Black Bean Soup / Perky Peach / Leek. 2006. Courtesy of John Baldessari Estate.
Engravings with Sounds: Sniffle. 2015. Museum of Modern Art, New York.