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Havana Biennial 2019: Constructing the Possible Ocula Report Havana Biennial 2019: Constructing the Possible 17 Apr 2019 : Federica Bueti for Ocula

I first visited Havana in November 2016, a few days after Fidel Castro died, and just under a year before Hurricane Irma hit Cuba in September 2017. Since then, much has changed, including the hand-painted signs that punctuate the journey from the airport to the city centre, which today do not celebrate the revolution so much as the 'Unidad y...

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Andrew Stahl and Guo Xiaohui Ocula Conversation Andrew Stahl and Guo Xiaohui

The exhibition Beyond Boundaries at Somerset House in London (12 March–2 April 2019) marked the historic contributions of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing (CAFA) and the Slade School of Fine Art, University College London, on the occasion of their 100th and 150th anniversaries, respectively. Spread across several rooms of Somerset House's...

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The National 2019: New Australian Art Ocula Report The National 2019: New Australian Art 13 Apr 2019 : Elyse Goldfinch for Ocula

The National 2019: New Australian Art features work by 70 contemporary Australia-based artists split across three venues: the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW), Carriageworks, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) (29 March–21 July 2019), as curated by Isobel Parker Philip, curator of photographs at AGNSW; Daniel Mudie Cunningham,...

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John Baldessari

b. 1931, USA

John Baldessari is an artist's artist. He is celebrated as one of the most influential living artists today, both as a pioneer in conceptual art and as a teacher for more than three decades. In addition to his language-based paintings and performances of the late 1960s and 1970s, now considered milestones in conceptual art, Baldessari is also known for his use of colourful dot-shaped adhesives to conceal faces in photographs. As an artist who has often expanded his repertoire through painting, printmaking, sculpture, photomontage, video, film and books, Baldessari's work is characterised by humour, wit and an air of insouciance towards tradition.

Baldessari began his career as a painter, working with oils in the abstract expressionist manner that was dominant in America at the time. Many of his early paintings, however, have not survived, because in 1970 he burned the artworks made between 1953 and 1966 in a crematorium. Baldessari conceived the incineration as an artwork in itself, documenting and titling it Cremation Project. After the burning, the artist commemorated the destroyed paintings by having their birth and death dates inscribed on bronze plaques, and baking cookies with their ashes. Cremation Project signalled both his break with abstract expressionism and his increasing experimentation with conceptual art.

Throughout his career, Baldessari has questioned the role of the artist and the meaning of authorship by diminishing authorship and challenging traditional boundaries in art-making. In the late 1960s, he occasionally hired professional sign painters to paint for him, notably Pure Beauty (1966–8), a simple white canvas with its title written across it in black capital letters. Such sign paintings not only emphasise the importance of concept over the artist's touch, but also disconcert the definition of a painting as composed of images by creating paintings composed of signs. In another iconic work, I Will Not Make Any More Boring Art (1971), Baldessari asked students at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Halifax, Canada, to write the sentence 'I will not make any more boring art' on the gallery walls of his exhibition. The well-known performance emerged from his lack of finances to travel to Nova Scotia, where the artist had been asked to exhibit. Baldessari, who had been deeply dissatisfied with the limitations of traditional painting, conceived to cover the space that conventionally hangs paintings with sentences in a repeated manner that resembles a punishment. At the same time, however, the artist intended the punishment-performance to be instructive for young students, encouraging them to rebel against tradition.

In the 1980s, Baldessari began using stills from B movies or noir films to create fragmented and ambiguous narratives. For example, the collage Kiss/Panic (1984) consists of ten images of hands holding guns that frame an extreme close-up of a kiss and a scene with a gathering. The guns point away from the central images as if to protect or threaten moments of intimacy by holding them hostage. During this period, Baldessari also began to block out faces, bodies and other parts of photographs with paint, later utilising his famous dots to cover faces as a way of withholding important visual information from the viewer. Confronted with the concealed spaces, the spectator becomes an active participant, using their imagination to complete the missing parts.

Text and image remain central to Baldessari's practice, in which unrelated components are paired to stimulate the viewer's participation in the construction of meaning. OFFICE BUILDING—DAY MAYO Is there a Courbet for sale here? (2017), for instance, depicts the emoji of a green gecko, multiplied in size and printed on canvas, above the question in its title. By juxtaposing elements with no apparent relationship, Baldessari encourages the viewer to search for possible links between them—making associations and speculations, actively constructing meaning in the process. His 'Movie Scripts / Art' series (2014), which pairs excerpts from film scripts with details of art historical images, achieve a similar effect.

Baldessari studied art and literature at San Diego State University, where he received his MA in art history in 1957, and completed further post-graduate work at Otis Art Institute, Chouinard Art Institute and the University of California, Berkeley. Since first teaching art in his native National City in 1959, he taught for more than three decades at junior colleges, community colleges and universities. Between 1970 and 1988 he held his celebrated Post-Studio Art classes at CalArts, which encouraged young artists to experiment outside traditional painting and sculpture. Among his first students were Barbara Bloom, Troy Brauntuch, Matt Mullican, David Salle and James Welling, who are now some of the most prominent artists of their generation. Baldessari returned to teaching in 1996 at the University of California, Los Angeles and continued to teach until 2007, further contributing to contemporary art by influencing a younger generation of artists.

Baldessari's work has been exhibited extensively in the US and Europe; the artist's biography on his website reveals that he has held more than 200 solo exhibitions and over 1000 group exhibitions. Recent solo exhibitions include Learning to Read with John Baldessari at Museo Jumex, Mexico City (2017); John Baldessari, the inaugural show of Sprüth Magers in Los Angeles (2016); and John Baldessari: Pure Beauty (2009), a major retrospective organised by Tate Modern that travelled to Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona, Los Angeles County Museum of Art and New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2010. In 2009 Baldessari was awarded the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the 53rd Venice Biennale. The artist lives and works in California.

Sherry Paik | Ocula | 2018
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Featured Artworks

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Hot & Cold Series: THE FAT MAN... BETTY Except for about six pages by John Baldessari contemporary artwork John BaldessariHot & Cold Series: THE FAT MAN... BETTY Except for about six pages, 2018 Varnished inkjet prints on canvas with acrylic paint
Marian Goodman Gallery
BLAH by John Baldessari contemporary artwork John BaldessariBLAH, 2018 Mixografia® print on handmade paper
91.44 x 121.92 inches
Krakow Witkin Gallery
Miró and Life in General: Incumbent by John Baldessari contemporary artwork John BaldessariMiró and Life in General: Incumbent, 2016 Varnished inkjet print on canvas with acrylic paint
243.5 x 128.3 x 3.8 cm
Marian Goodman Gallery
Penguin by John Baldessari contemporary artwork John BaldessariPenguin, 2018 Polyurethane, stainless steel, acrylic, epoxy resin, and paint
79 x 29 x 32 inches
Beyer Projects
Giacometti with Barrel by John Baldessari contemporary artwork John BaldessariGiacometti with Barrel, 2018 Bronze, resin, stainless steel, and mixed media
186 x 26 x 25 inches
Beyer Projects
Storyboard (In 4 Parts): Man Carrying Ladder by John Baldessari contemporary artwork John BaldessariStoryboard (In 4 Parts): Man Carrying Ladder, 2013 Varnished inkjet print on canvas with acrylic and oil paint
191.77 x 196.85 cm
Marian Goodman Gallery
Movie Scripts / Art: Come on sugar by John Baldessari contemporary artwork John BaldessariMovie Scripts / Art: Come on sugar, 2014 Diptych, varnished inkjet print on canvas with acrylic paint
273.7 x 144.2 cm
Marian Goodman Gallery
Sediment (Part Two): Arm and Pillow by John Baldessari contemporary artwork John BaldessariSediment (Part Two): Arm and Pillow, 2010 Varnished archival print on canvas with oil and acrylic paint
177.8 x 137.16 cm
Marian Goodman Gallery

Current & Recent Exhibitions

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Contemporary art exhibition, John Baldessari, John Baldessari at Marian Goodman Gallery, New York
3 May–15 June 2019 John Baldessari John Baldessari Marian Goodman Gallery, New York
Contemporary art exhibition, John Baldessari, Brain/Cloud (Two Views) at Marian Goodman Gallery, London
8 November 2018–12 January 2019 John Baldessari Brain/Cloud (Two Views) Marian Goodman Gallery, London
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, Towards Infinity: 1965-1980 at Simon Lee Gallery, London
4 July–7 September 2018 Group Exhibition Towards Infinity: 1965-1980 Simon Lee Gallery, London

Represented By

In Ocula Magazine

Bob Rennie Ocula Conversation Bob Rennie Collector

In Vancouver's Chinatown, an area wedged between the gleaming office towers of the city's affluent West End and the city’s poorest neighbourhood, Downtown Eastside, is a gallery showcasing work from one of the world’s leading private collections.Housed in a restored iteration of Chinatown’s oldest building, the...

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In Related Press

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Frieze Sculpture 2018: the highlights Related Press Frieze Sculpture 2018: the highlights Wallpaper* : 4 July 2018

Between Wimbledon and the FIFA World Cup, there's been plenty of distractions from London's unusually Mediterranean weather of late.

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John Baldessari on his giant emoji paintings: 'I just wondered what they'd look like large' Related Press John Baldessari on his giant emoji paintings: 'I just wondered what they'd look like large' The Guardian : 27 November 2017

The neighbourhood surrounding John Baldessari's studio in Venice is as eclectic as it is incongruous. Sleek, modernist homes sit next to quaint bungalows, while an old hippy with a surfboard tucked under one arm bikes past a Sotheby's real estate sign hanging in front of a million-dollar home. With his laid-back demeanour, lanky 6ft 7in frame,...

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Top speed: John Baldessari creates his fastest ever artwork for BMW Related Press Top speed: John Baldessari creates his fastest ever artwork for BMW Wallpaper* : 12 December 2016

During this year's Art Basel Miami Beach, BMW unveiled the latest instalment of its Art Car collection, this time created in collaboration with American artist John Baldessari. It’s the 19th in a series of vehicles (or ‘rolling sculptures’) created by visual artists: since 1975, the German car marque has worked with Andy...

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The beasts within: Artists tap into their wild sides for a roaring show Related Press The beasts within: Artists tap into their wild sides for a roaring show Wallpaper* : 26 November 2016

Rarely before have we seen such a long and varied list of contributors, as we do in Marian Goodman Gallery's group show Animality. The 'cast of creatures' ranges from dogs, camels, fish to octopi, and charts a history from George Orwell to Gabriel Orozco by way of Marcel Broodthaers. Curator Jens Hoffmann, never one to turn down a...

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