John Baldessari (1931 - 2020) was one of the best-known representatives of conceptual art. He combined ingenuity and levity in his work, creating a sense of idiosyncratic irony which subtly questioned his own artistic identity.
The recent acquisition of seven works by the late Californian artist has created the occasion for a one-room installation. This idea originated with Inka Graeve Ingelmann (1960 - 2019). As head of the Photography and New Media department, she has been instrumental in building and shaping the collection since the opening of the Pinakothek der Moderne
. The John Baldessari Room was realised according to her plans.
The One with the dots
Ill probably be remembered as the guy who put dots over peoples faces, Baldessari said. Yet this trademark ability to direct attention from the essential to the supposedly trivial, is but one aspect of the artists rich visual universe. Photography and painting, video and sculpture, image and text, and the general crossover between different disciplines and narratives define his work.
Baldessari under the spotlight at the Pinakothek der Moderne
Since 2003, the cornerstone of the Baldessari collection has been formed by two works on permanent loan from Siemens AG; the large-format photograph Man Running / Men Carrying Box, 1988-90, and the portfolio The Metaphor Problem, 1999. From 2017 the support of PIN. Freunde der Pinakothek der Moderne has enabled the progressive expansion of the collection, now comprising eleven works which allow an insightful glimpse into his diverse oeuvre:
The 1971 video I Will Not Make Any More Boring Art is an iconic work of art in Baldessaris oeuvre as well as for conceptual art in general, in which Baldessari presents the guiding principle and the self-fulfilling prophecy of his career. In two other, early video works, Baldessari Sings LeWitt and Teaching a Plant the Alphabet, he closely examines the output of fellow artists: Sol LeWitts famous manifesto on conceptual art and Joseph Beuys performance How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare. Baldessari, who was also an influential teacher, here created both works of art in their own right as well as didactic pieces on the history of art. In the Modern Art Collection at the Pinakothek der Moderne, these can now be viewed in close proximity to the works of Joseph Beuys, Sol LeWitt and Hanne Darboven.
The newly acquired photogravure Falling Star, 1989-1990, and the lithograph Studio, 1988, create further links to other Baldessari works already in the museums collection. In Studio a formally dressed group, of either critics or collectors depending on the context, looks over the painters shoulder. But can they even see anything, given that Baldessari concealed their faces with colour dots? This curious mask allows for new perspectives whilst exposing the personality cults and power dynamics of the art world.
Baldessaris critical commentary on his own guild can likewise be observed in the offset lithograph Six Rooms and in The Fallen Easel. He continually searched for a fresh look, new meanings and puns.
A Brief History of John Baldessari - a film portrait
The display is completed by the short film A Brief History of John Baldessari. The artistic documentary produced in 2012 by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, narrated by Tom Waits, summarises Baldessaris lifes work and gets right to the 🔵