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John Baldessari Prints

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John Baldessari was born on June 17, 1932, in National City, California. John Baldessari is known as a leading Californian Conceptual artist. Painting was important to his early work. When he emerged, in the early 1960s, he was working in a nonverbal style. But by the end of the decade he had begun to introduce text and pre-existing images.

He would often be doing so to create riddles that highlighted some of the unspoken assumptions of contemporary painting - as he once said, "I think when I'm doing art, I'm questioning how to do it." And in the 1970s he abandoned painting altogether and made in a diverse range of media, though his interests generally centred on the photographic image.

Conceptual art has created his interest in exploring how photographic images communicate, yet his work has little of the self-denial usually associated with that style; instead he works with light humor, and with materials and motifs that also reflect the influence of Pop art. Baldessari has also been a famously influential teacher. His ideas, and his relaxed and innovative approach to teaching, have made a severe impact on many, most notably the so-called Pictures Generation, whose blend of Pop and Conceptual art was prominent in the 1980s.

At first Baldessari worked with what has been called the “phototext canvas,”. Phototext canvas are words that are painted on a canvas. His interest in language-based art led him to create a great variety of works. Which involved all in some combination of words, still images, and video.

In the 1970s he made several deadpan impassive videos, including, for example, one in which he “sings” several sentences by conceptual artist Sol LeWitt regarding art he called this 
“Baldessari Sings LeWitt” this was created in 1972. Also he created another in which he taught a plant the alphabet, this was called “Teaching a Plant the Alphabet” and was also created in 1972.

He is perhaps best known for his works juxtaposing found photographs such as film stills, taking them out of their original context and changing their articulation and often including words or bits of sentences. His analyzation of the ambiguities and frailties of photographic communication exposed the range of ways in which photographic images could be organized and read.

His work both undercut and reinforced the procedures of perception. In the 1980s, for example, he became well known for his manipulation of found photographs on which he placed colored circle stickers over people’s faces. In doing so, he hoped to compel the viewer to consider more carefully the other elements in the image.

Baldessari has showed us a lasting interest in language and semantics, manipulating these concerns through the use of puns or the juxtaposition of seemingly unrelated images and words, as in his 1978 work Blasted Allegories. His self-referencing photomontages and use of text have been sources of inspiration for countless artists, including Cindy Sherman, David Salle, and Barbara Kruger. Baldessari identifies his own artistic lineage, saying, "I would prefer to go to the source with Duchamp rather than credit Warhol as an influence."

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