John Baldessari

(b. 1931)

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(1931– ).

Conceptual artist, painter, printmaker, collage artist, and photographer. Among artists who have contributed to conceptual art, he stands out for responsiveness to visual effects. Although he has focused on questions of meaning in visual representation and/or language, he has for the most part avoided the dry, documentary approach that characterizes much conceptual work. Instead, he remains open to the richly allusive powers of optical experience, while also maintaining a sense of humor. A central influence on many younger artists, he has taught in the Los Angeles area since 1970, first at the California Institute of the Arts and more recently, at UCLA. Born in National City, John Anthony Baldessari graduated from nearby San Diego State University in 1953 and received a master's degree there four years later. He also studied in Los Angeles, at the Otis Art Institute (now Otis College of Art and Design) and the Chouinard Art Institute (predecessor to the California Institute of the Arts). At first primarily a painter, in the mid-1960s he began to introduce photographs and/or text to undermine the medium's presuppositions. A witty painting consisting only of lettering (subcontracted to a professional sign-painter) proclaims everything is purged from this painting but art, no ideas have entered this work (private collection, 1966). In 1970 he ceremonially cremated his paintings and recycled the ashes into other works. Looking to precedents in the work of Marcel Duchamp, John Cage, Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, and the fluxus artists, among others, he subsequently favored open-ended experimental procedures. Using his own photographs or images taken from popular culture, primarily movie stills, he arranges his material in formats that implicitly question the meaning of representation, set up ambiguous narratives, or tease in concert with intriguing texts.

Subjects: Art.

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