Baldessari Retrospective at LACMA runs through Sept. 12

What was Seen

'Tetrad Series: What Was Seen' 1999, digital print and acrylic on canvas, | John Baldessari

There are only six weeks left to catch Pure Beauty at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). Whether you’re an art world insider well familiar with John Baldessari’s (Chouinard 59) oeuvre, or a newbie to his work, the show is a joy to behold. Smart, funny and irreverent about all that we call “art”–as well as the activities engaged in to produce it–Baldessari’s work pokes fun at conventions while pointing viewers toward new ways of thinking about and experiencing words, images–and frames–hung on walls.

From Leslie Jones’ narrative chronology of Baldessari’s life and work in the Pure Beauty catalog (designed by Calarts’ School of Art faculty Lorraine Wild):

That same year [1970] Baldessari began teaching at California Institute of the Arts in Valencia. His tenure there would prove to be an extremely fruitful period in Baldessari’s career, both as an artist and a teacher…CalArts thrived as a center of artistic innovation, due mostly to the faculty assembled by [the Art School’s] first dean; painter Paul Brach…

Baldessari’s course was called ‘post studio art,’ based on his notion that ‘there is a certain kind of work one could do that didn’t require a studio. It’s work that is done in one’s head. The artists could be the facilitator[s] of the work; executing it was another matter…one of the things I worked for at Calarts was to break the stranglehold of the L.A. aesthetic [dictated by the Ferus Gallery]. I constantly pushed to hire not from L.A., but from New York and Europe–to bring in an alternative aesthetic.

Don’t miss this opportunity to see the flowering of one of the most fertile creative imaginations of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. In contemporary parlance, Baldessari was, like Warhol, a game changer. His attitude and vision, while far ahead of their time and place, managed to define and transcend both.

John Baldessari’s Pure Beauty
at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Through Sept. 12, 2010

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