Biography of John Baldessari
John Baldessari is one of the most influential American artists. Employing a wide variety of mediums, most prominently photography, his conceptual artworks are often characterized by their relation to the written word. Combining appropriated text with pre-existing images from popular culture, John Baldessari’s work questions the semantics of the art world and the role of the artist. During the 1960s he used this act of image borrowing and text appropriation to re-think the very idea of what art could be.
In his works John Baldessari often uses stock images, which he adapts by adding plains of color that highlights certain areas and obscures select portions of the image, forcibly shifting a viewer’s attention and perspective. His work has been shaped by the Conceptual art movement but departs from its austere style, instead using the humor and themes more commonly associated with Pop art. John Baldessari often collages materials taken from public forms of communication such as films stills. By re-contextualizing them in new orders and settings, he distorts their original meaning, creating his own narrative that forces to use to question their initial purpose and message.
Born in 1931 in Californa, John Baldessari was a teacher at the California Institute of the Arts and UCLA from 1970 until 2008. During his time at these universities he taught the infamous “Post Studio” class which encouraged students to look beyond sculpture and canvas works. This notion would have a profound effect on The Pictures Generation, who included Sherrie Levine and Barbara Kruger. Also among his students were artists David Salle and Matt Mullican.
Throughout his six-decade career, John Baldessari has had over 200 solo exhibitions and 1000 group shows across the US and Europe. Recent solo exhibitions of his work have been held at the Tate Modern in London, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and LACMA in Los Angeles. He represented his country at the 1997 Venice Biennial and in 2013 the California Institute of the Arts opened a John Baldessari Art Studio Building in recognition of his outstanding contribution to their institution. He died on January 2, 2020