Wednesday, January 17, 2007


Born on June 17, 1931, in National City, south of San Diego, California, John Baldessari was the son of European immigrants, his mother from Denmark, his father from Austria. His parents 'non-american' influence, growing up in a ghetto neighbourhood, and his unusual height CAUSED HIM TO STAND OUT FROM HIS PEERS, KEEP TO HIMSELF, AND WITHDRAW

During High school his interests were equally balanced between art and chemistry. But chose art and went on to obtain a degree from San Diego State Collage with a major in Art, a minor in Literature, and selected courses in Philosophy.

September 1954 to Spring 1955 he "tried to reinvent the wheel"


Baldessari realized he would have to be satisfied with 'fragmented, partial knowledge'.

First exhibit in San Bernardoino at the "National Orange Show" - works showed influences of Cezanne and Matisse.

1957 - Received a Masters Degree in Art from San Diego State. Worked as a San Diego High school Art teacher. Met Rico Lebrun, quit his job, decided to become a Artist, moved to LA to study at the Otis and Chouinard art institutes.

Applied to pursue religious studies at the Princeton Theological Seminary, but was rejected.

1959 - discouraged with lack of gallery success and feeling pressure to conform to dominant LA art style, he returned to San Diego, and settled into teaching.

Summer 1959 - taught a art program for Juvenile Delinquents for six months in the mountains. The students rejuvenated his belief in art. "Then I realized how magic and powerful art could be; they valued art more then I did."

1960/61 - painted lightly textured landscapes of the La Jolla clifts.

1962- abandoned landscapes for a more abstract style.

Found inspiration from billboards and began introducing text into his work. Also he began collecting billboard images.

"I create my own dictionary of images, but it is always sliding."

1966 exhibited \'Fragments\' at the La Jolla Museum of Art.Baldessari asks the Question "When is a part a whole, and when is a whole a part"?

Summer 1966- Baldessari worked 4 part time jobs, and divided his remaining time between reading, painting and taking photographs outside. He began pinning his photographs up on the wall with extensive notes on his readings.

1967- Series of \'Art Lessons\' initiated his ongoing dialog between himself as the artist and as the teacher. He began using a sign painter to letter his works and actually started hiring artists to paint the canvases, to further explore the relationship between art and maker

1968 - First Los Angeles show, at the Molly Barnes Gallery.

"Viewpoint: what to put in; what to leave out: the eye has a tendency to prefer little shapes to large masses. It also prefers to build a image bit by bit. To the beginner, a subject such as this presents a baffling problem."

1969 - California Map Project. Project to make visible the ghetto boundary of South San Diego. A part of the characteristic approach to earth works and landscape at the time.

1970 - BALDESSARI BURNED MOST OF HIS VIDEO WORK FOR REASONS UNKNOWN, making record of his video work very rare. A select few are available at

These 'iconic' videos explored ideas of perception, meaning and interpretation.

1970 to current - (coming to blog soon...)

Current: Magritte Exhibition In L.A.

Baldessari carpeted the floors with images of white clouds against a blue sky (digital manipulations of Magritte's clouds) and wallpapered the ceiling with repeating images of intersecting Los Angeles freeways. He also asked the guards to wear bowler hats.

"I get accused a lot of jamming things together that don't go together," he said, "which is something Magritte does all the time. So I think we share that tendency. The whole idea is to get people to look at things more closely."

"If I ever meet Magritte in that big art gallery in the sky, is he going to smack me?" He paused, perhaps for effect. "I don't think so. I think he would like this."

IMAGE: John Baldessari in the gallery he designed for the installation of the Magritte show at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

John Baldessari lives in Santa Monica, California.At 75 he still teaches art at UCLA, continues to exhibit throughout the world, and works out four days a week with a personal trainer.

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