Continue playing

(Time remaining: )

Play from beginning

Play from beginning

Continue playing "{{ controller.videos[controller.getVideo(controller.currentVideo)].segmentParentTitle}}"

{{controller.videos[controller.getVideo(controller.currentVideo)].title}} has ended.

{{ currentTime | date:'HH:mm:ss':'+0000' }} / {{ totalTime | date:'HH:mm:ss':'+0000' }} {{ currentTime | date:'mm:ss':'+0000' }} / {{ totalTime | date:'mm:ss':'+0000' }} {{cue.title}}
Add to WatchlistRemove from Watchlist
Add to watchlist
Remove from watchlist

Video unavailable

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.

More information

Closed captionsAvailable in English, German, Romanian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Italian

Translate this video

Through the Art21 Translation Project, multilingual audiences from around the globe can contribute translations, making Art21 films more accessible worldwide.


Interested in showing this film in an exhibition or public screening? To license this video please visit Licensing & Reproduction.

John Baldessari

Synthesizing photomontage, painting, and language, John Baldessari’s deadpan visual juxtapositions equate images with words and illuminate, confound, and challenge meaning. He upended 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. He lived and worked in Santa Monica, California, where he passed away in January 2020.

John Baldessari

Add to watchlist

John Baldessari

Add to watchlist
Add to watchlist

Read 1


Just an Artist

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.

More from "Systems"

Add to watchlist
Add to watchlist
Add to watchlist