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The Giacometti Variations, an Original Project by John Baldessari, at the Prada Foundation
People look at sculptures by U.S. artist John Baldessari during a show at the Prada Foundation in Milan. The show called "The Giacometti Variations" features nine emaciated sculptures, each 4.5 meters high, dressed in colourful clothes and ironic accessories designed by Baldessari. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini.

MILAN.- The Prada Foundation presents “The Giacometti Variations,” an original project by John Baldessari (born 1931, National City, CA), curated by Germano Celant, featured at its space in Via Fogazzaro 36, Milan, from October 29 to December 31, 2010.

“The Giacometti Variations” is an installation conceived specifically for the exhibition spaces of the Prada Foundation and consists of nine sculptures made of resin and steel and sprayed with bronze, each 4.5 meters tall. Inspired by the imagery of the Swiss sculptor, the huge, oversized female figures take the slender, emaciated character of their bodies to an extreme: a vision of a monumental mannequin.

Arranged in a row between the space’s columns and under its arches, the figures as a whole, in their stasis and linearity, recall a snapshot of a fashion show. Taking their cue from La petite danseuse de quatorze ans (1879-1881) by Edgar Degas, the original bronze of which featured a cloth bodice and a tutu of white tulle, every figure of “The Giacometti Variations” is dressed in garments and objects designed by Baldessari himself. Their look is inspired by archetypes whose origins lie in the imagery fostered by the interrelationship between film and fashion, as well as by the fanciful interaction between art-world novelty and the continual updating of the messages conveyed in advertising and commerce. They range from the hot-pink bow in duchess satin—an ironic revisiting of the 1950s Hollywood glamour of Marilyn Monroe—to Rapunzel’s long blond tresses; from the burning pyre of St. Joan of Arc to Dorothy’s ruby slippers in “The Wizard of Oz; from the nineteenthcentury crinoline of “Gone with the Wind” to Humphrey Bogart’s trench coat in “Casablanca.”

At the same time the artist takes into account the rapidity with which images and trends in dress and fashion are consumed, and this process is reflected, as the show unfolds, in the changes of décor for the statues. Eighteen different overall looks are thus born and presented in rotation: from October 29 to November 15; from November 16 to December 6; and from December 7 to December 26. Through this process of transformation John Baldessari reminds us, as it were, of the dizzying speed of consumption and obsolescence affecting the fetishes of body aesthetics, objects as well as clothes, and underscores the linguistic exchange between art and fashion. It is an osmosis in which everything becomes indistinguishable, as it is thrust into the vortex of novelty, which the monumentality of art history may, perhaps, survive.

Born in National City, California in 1931, John Baldessari is one of the most influential artists of his generation and a major exponent of American conceptual art. His work is centered around processes of choice and selection and manages to create surprising narrative sequences through the continual removal and replacement of elements.

His works have been shown in more than 200 solo exhibitions and over 900 group shows in the United States and Europe. His projects include artist’s books, videos, films, billboards, and public works. He is an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has won the Americans for the Arts Lifetime Achievement Award, the Rolex Mentor prize and the Protegé Arts Initiative, as well as the Lifetime Achievement Award in the Visual Arts for the State of California, the Kokoschka Prize, the “Spectrum” Internationaler Preis für Fotografie, the 2008 BACA Internazionale, and the Golden Lion for career achievement at the Venice Biennale of 2009. He has received honorary degrees from the Irish National University, from San Diego State University, and the Otis Art Institute of the Parsons School of Design. Recent projects include shows in New York, Madrid, and Los Angeles, including the Pure Beauty retrospective that opened at the Tate Modern in London (October 2009 – January 2010), continued at the Museu d’Art Contemporani of Barcelona (February – Aprin 2010) and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (June – September 2010), and will close at the Metropolitan Museum of New York (October 2010 – January 2011), as well as installations at the Museum Haus Lange at Krefeld, Germany,and Sprüth Magers in London. Works in progress for 2010 include a new work for the Kaldor Art Projects in Sidney, Australia, as well as the show at the Fondazione Prada in Milan.

The Prada Foundation | The Giacometti Variations | John Baldessari |

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