John Baldessari.

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A brief background: Kate reached out to the great, iconic California artist, John Baldessari, inviting him to be part of her collaborative. He kindly responded, via his assistant, he would not take part but wished the project well.  The reason?  There were simply too many items on his desk. In turn, Kate asked his assistant to “please let him know messy desks are part of the project”. And, if he reconsiders, we could use his response as his “interpretation” on his workspace.

She hoped he would have a change of heart.

Ten days elapsed.

Another email arrived yesterday. Via his assistant, John said his remarks were OK to publish and “although he cannot send a photo for the project,” he added to his statement,

“At any one moment there are over 500 things on my desk and it would take an archeologist to make an inventory. Stratum upon stratum, and lost civilizations embedded within each.”

So although John’s workspace is missing, he very much participated in this project. His biography reads like an encyclopedia.  As you know, he’s done everything.

(photo: © 2007 Sidney B. Felsen)



John Baldessari was born in National City, California, 17 June 1931. He received a BA (1953) and MA (1957) from San Diego State College, continuing his studies at Otis Art Institute (1957–59) and Chouinard Art Institute. Synthesizing photomontage, painting, and language, Baldessari’s deadpan visual juxtapositions equate images with words and illuminate, confound, and challenge meaning. He upends commonly held expectations of how images function, often by drawing the viewer’s attention to minor details, absences, or the spaces between things. By placing colorful dots over faces, obscuring portions of scenes, or juxtaposing stock photographs with quixotic phrases, he injects humor and dissonance into vernacular imagery. For most of his career John Baldessari has also been a teacher. A major retrospective will appear at the Tate Modern, London; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; and Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 2009–10. John Baldessari was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2007. He lives and works in Santa Monica, California.

An extremely brief sampling of John Baldessari’s works below.

(Image one: John Baldessari, Solving Each Problem As It Arises, 1967 Acrylic on canvas. Image two: John Baldessari, Quality material1967, oil and acrylic on canvas. Image three: John Baldessari Tips for Artists Who Want to Sell, 1966-68 Acrylic on canvas.)

1 Comment For “John Baldessari.”

  1. I just heard the John Baldessari interview on CBC radio August 17, 2011 13:45 – it really mad me re-think my own art. I too have been tempted to cremate much of my work, thanks for the wake-up. I won’t (burn) of course, but it showed me how serious I am. Lighten up, Wilson!
    Ron in Victoria BC.

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