Baldessari’s relationship to words and pictures, his pairing of photography and language, was first brought into the realm of art in the Text paintings and Photo-text paintings of the 1960s. Later, his characteristic pairing of image and text, selecting and contrasting unrelated objects, paved the way for a pictorial system assembled of incongruent elements that interact and correlate with each other, allowing for subtle shifts of meaning and context. In later series, such as the National City works, Goya series, Elbows, Tetrads, Prima Facie andonwards, Baldessari broke the canvas into sections representing ways of constructing imagination and the world. This doubling could entail two words, two images, or word and image: it was the bringing of two or more things together that was key … “get(ting) them close enough so there’s some sort of synapse and something new is created – it could … be Dr. Frankenstein-like or it could be meaningful. I do like when a third meaning is created. I find that quite interesting.”
John Baldessari, Movie Scripts / Art: Room is bare and dusty, 2014, Courtesy of Marian Goodman Gallery
John Baldessari, Movie Scripts / Art: Come on sugar, 2014; John Baldessari, Movie Scripts / Art: A hand suddenly grips railing, 2014, Courtesy of Marian Goodman Gallery
More recently, the Doubles series reinvented this coupling, placing art historical images with texts and disparate titles from film noir or popular songs, asking the viewer to fashion new meaning from old masterpieces. The recent Storyboards (in 4 Parts), and Morsels and Snippets, similarly culled material from newspapers and magazines, placing it with on the one hand, text and color charts, or on the other, high-end food entries, as a commentary on narrative sequencing as well as our cultural preoccupations.
John Baldessari, Movie Scripts / Art: Frank nurses the drink, 2014, Courtesy of Marian Goodman Gallery
John Baldessari, Movie Scripts / Art: No use running, 2014, Courtesy of Marian Goodman Gallery
In the current exhibition Movie Scripts/ Art 2014, Baldessari goes one step further, selecting fragments of receivedart historical images and editing the images down to a detail in order to conceal their art historical lineage, pairing them with texts from movie scripts. This continues a process which he began in Scene/Take…(2014), however here Baldessari applies a chance method to the scripts themselves and chooses to modify his pairings with an inventive collage of both found and fabricated texts – ‘movie scripts’-- in relation to and illustrative of his chosen image:
“The idea was to take fine art and put it into the location of the movie scripts. The script itself is collage – some of the lines come from actual movies and I’ve written others to make the text work with the found image. In this way, the details of old – and for the most part dead – guys’ paintings (from the collection of the Städel Museum in Frankfurt, where this work will be exhibited in relation to the historical paintings) become illustrations of the movie scripts. I found this mélange of high art and Hollywood amusing.”
- John Baldessari 2014
John Baldessari, Movie Scripts / Art: Hang in there, 2014 ; John Baldessari, Movie Scripts / Art: Seems likely, 2014, Courtesy of Marian Goodman Gallery
John Baldessari, Movie Scripts / Art: A large puddle of milk, 2014, Courtesy of Marian Goodman Gallery
John Baldessari, Movie Scripts / Art: I wouldn't even try, 2014, Courtesy of Marian Goodman Gallery
John Baldessari’s recent solo exhibitions include Your Name in Lights at La Monnaie de Paris, which was on view in September/October, as well as John Baldessari: 1+1=1 at the Garage Center for Contemporary Culture in Moscow which ended last November. Forthcoming shows include an exhibition at Städel Museum, Frankfurt in the Fall 2015.
Yale University Press has recently published two volumes of John Baldessari: Catalogue Raisonne: the first in 2012, titled John Baldessari: Catalogue Raisonné : Volume One: 1956-1974 which covers his unique works during the years 1956-1974; and the second, John Baldessari: Catalogue Raisonne: Volume Two: 1975-1986 in 2013. Forthcoming in 2015, Volume Three: 1987-1993 is due to be published.