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John Baldessari in "Systems"

“I’m always interested in things that we don’t call art, and I say why not?” asks John Baldessari. Filmed in his California studio, the artist consults with his assistant on a color-coded group of maquettes for a series of photographic bas-reliefs. “One of the reasons I gave up painting is because it’s all about being tasteful,” he explains, “I just decided to be very systematic about it and use the color wheel.”

Throughout a segment that features over fifty pieces, including works in the inaugural exhibition of the Broad Contemporary Art Museum at LACMA, Baldessari assails conventional wisdom about art and meaning. In an installation at Museum Haus Lange in Krefeld, Germany, Baldessari humorously reconfigures an entire brick building by noted architect Mies van der Rohe. “Aesthetically, I always look for the weak link in the chain,” he says.

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John Baldessari

Synthesizing photomontage, painting, and language, John 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.

John Baldessari

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John Baldessari

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John Baldessari discusses language and communication, and how many years of teaching, from preschool to college level, influenced his work in the studio. Interview by Susan Sollins at the artist’s studio in Los Angeles, California, July 2008.

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