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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.

More information and credits


Created by: Susan Sollins & Susan Dowling. Executive Producer & Curator: Susan Sollins. Series Producer: Eve-Laure Moros Ortega. Associate Producer: Migs Wright. Associate Curator: Wesley Miller. Production Manager: Nick Ravich. Production Coordinator: Larissa Nikola-Lisa. Consulting Director: Charles Atlas. Editor: Lizzie Donahue. Director of Photography: Robert Elfstrom, Ian Serfontein, Joel Shapiro, Martial Barrault, Richard Kane, & Richard Numeroff. Additional Photography: Sam Henriques & Bryan Hithe. Sound: Tom Bergin, Ray Day, Roger Phenix, Paul Stadden, & Merce Williams. Assistant Camera: Clair Popkin, Michael Pruitt-Bruun, Jean-Pierre Vial, Kenny Weinberg, & James Weinheimer. Field Producer: Mariana Valdrighi Amaral. On Screen Interviews: Sarah Rentz, Harmony Murphy, Erika Fortner, Damien Young, Jessica Rankin, Brienne Arrington, Analia Saban, Larry Little, & Horace Varnum.

Creative Consultant: Ed Sherin. Art Direction & Design: Open, New York. Graphics Animation: Maurice Caicedo & Urosh Perishic. On-Line Editor: Don Wyllie. Composer: Peter Foley. Voice-Over Artist: Jace Alexander. Sound Editing: Margaret Crimmins & Greg Smith. Sound Mix: Cory Melious. Artwork Animation: Frank Ferrigno. Assistant Editor: Ahmed Amer, Janine Cappadona, Paulo Padilha, Joaquin Perez, Leana Siochi, & Ken Yapelli.

Artworks Courtesy of: John Baldessari; Kimsooja; Allan McCollum; Julie Mehretu; Electronic Arts Intermix; Friedrich Petzel Gallery, New York; Kunstmuseen Krefeld, Museum Haus Lange, Germany; Marian Goodman Gallery, New York; & The Project, New York. Archival Footage Courtesy of: Centre for Fine Arts, Brussels; Agustina Covian; Kimsooja Studio, New York; Thaddeus Seymour & Polly Seymour Gnagy.

Special Thanks: 601Artspace, New York; Akademie der Künste, Berlin; Gert-Jan Akerboom; Vera Alemani; The Art21 Board of Trustees; ARTASIA; Artful Heirlooms; Michael Ashburn; Aunt Holly’s Copper Cookie Cutters; Catherine Belloy; Bienal de São Paulo; Pat Casteel and Steve Wylie; Colby Bird; Kajette Bloomfield; Paul Brewer; Travis Call; Karla Braun; Jacob Cohen; Ralph Cuccurullo; Phil Curtis; Janna de Haen; Dog Bark Sound; Melissa Dubbin; Eike Dürrfeld; Frame:Runner, NYC; Rashell George; Claudia Gerhaeusser; Cormac Graham; Dr. Martin Hentschel; David Howe; Carl Johns; Anna Elise Johnson; Annice Kessler; Eric Kuhl; Holly Little; Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA); Sheila Lynch; Roland Moreau; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid; Muriel Nestler; Ana Otero; Celina Paiz; Marcie Paper; Laura Piasta; Tracy Powell; Prospect.1 New Orleans; Anthony Reach; Inken Reinert; Repeat Impressions; Allie Rex; Andre Ribuoli; Adele Röder; Penelope Santana; Anette Schmitt; Larry Schmitt; Susan Schneider; Karen Schoellkopf; Kim Schoenstadt; Claire Schulte-Heuthaus; Keith Shapiro; Sound Lounge; Felipe Taboada; Charlotte Uslar; Noella Varnum; Amanda Vietta; Jacopo Crivelli Visconti; Tony Volante; Mechthild Von Laue; & Viola A. Yesiltaç.

Additional Art21 Staff: Beth Allen, Mary Cook, Joe Fusaro, Jessica Hamlin, Jennifer H. Lee, Marc Mayer, Jonathan Munar, Katherine Payne, Kelly Shindler, & Sara Simonson.

Interns: Maggie Bordonaro, Krystle DeMauro, Natalia P. Good, Sophie Grant, Pinchang Huang, Joy Lai, Rachele Lam, Jamie Leonardi, Melanie K. Mambo, Pauli Ochi, Sara Odam, David Roesing, Nicole Ross, Nicole Sansone, & Julia Wright.

Public Relations: Goodman Media International. Station Relations: De Shields Associates, Inc. Legal Counsel: Albert Gottesman. Bookkeeper: Valerie Riley. Travel Agent: Lita Gottesman.

Major underwriting for Season 5 of Art in the Twenty-First Century is provided by National Endowment for the Arts, PBS, Agnes Gund, Bloomberg, The Nathan Cummings Foundation, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, The Broad Art Foundation, Korea Foundation, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation.

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

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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 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

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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"

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