John Baldessari Biography
John Baldessari was born June 17, 1931 in National City,
California. He was an American artist whose work in altered
and adjustable photographic imagery and video were central
to the development of conceptual art in the United States.
He attended San Diego State College where he earned his BA,
and later, returned to get his MA. He also did postgraduate
work at UC Berkeley, Chouinard Art Institute, and Otis Art
Institute (where he was later honored with a Doctor of Fine
Originally, he was going to be an art critic, but became a
central figure in the growth
of Los Angeles as a major art center. In addition to his art
projects such as artist books, video, films, billboards and
public works, he also taught at the California Institute of
the Visual Arts in Valencia, California from 1970-1990.
Then, joined the art faculty of UCLA.
Baldessari was considered one of the most conceptual artists
of his time, working in
many genres. He did print work in the 60's, video in the
70's, and composite photo
collages in the 80's.
Though his videos weren't what made him famous, it certainly
raised his profile with
the public. He used videos to bore deeply into the ideas of
the interpretations of
perception and meaning. Many of his videos had a solemnity,
but it was mixed with
absurdity...the one in which he "teaches a plant the
alphabet", is an example. Sadly, today his videos are
extremely rare due to the fact that he burned them all in
1970, for some strange reason known only to him.
Baldessari's keen interest in language-based art, initially
led him to create great varieties of work, all of which were
done in some combination of words, still images, and video.
This art form was called, photo text canvas...or, words
painted on canvas.
He is best known for works that blend photographic materials
(such as film stills),
take them out of their original context and rearrange their
form, often including the addition of words or sentences.
His acute awareness of the ambiguities and the frailties of
how a photo can communicate to the observer, shows a vast
range of modes in which an image can be reorganized to be
perceived in a variety of ways. In this way, his work both
undercuts and reinforces the procedures of perception.
He likes to take commonly held beliefs of how images work,
then... turn them upside down. Often, ways in which he
achieves this, is by drawing the viewer's attention to minor
details, the absence of something, or the spaces between
Baldessari's work has been shown in more than 200 solo
exhibitions and over 900
group exhibitions in the United States and Europe. Some of
his more recent major retrospectives have been held at the
Tate museum in London, MOMA in New York, and the Los Angeles
County Museum of Art.
He has received many honors through the years from
prestigious institutions such as the following...
AMERICAN ACADEMY OF ARTS AND SCIENCES
AMERICAN ACADEMY OF ARTS AND LETTERS
THE AMERICANS FOR THE ARTS LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
ROLEX MENTOR AND PROTEGE ARTS INITIATIVE
BACA INTERNATIONAL 2008
GOLDEN LIONS FOR LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT
John Baldessari lives and works in Santa Monica, California.