John Baldessari

John Baldessari was a leading American conceptual artist. Working in the spirit of Marcel Duchamp and René Magritte, he used strategies of appropriation and linguistic play to explore the relationship between art and meaning. His vast multimedia practice included paintings, prints, photography, video art, sculpture and installation.

Baldessari studied at San Diego State University in the 1950s. In 1957, he moved to Los Angeles, where he pursued post-graduate work at Otis Art Institute. He returned to San Diego in the mid-1960s, living in relative isolation from the larger art world. His early works, which involved merging painting with text and photography, gradually became more radical. In 1969, he hired other people to paint his Commissioned Paintings series. The following year, his Cremation Project saw him incinerate much of his own work. He announced the destruction with a notarised affidavit in the San Diego Union. Some of the ashes were put in boxes; others were baked into cookies.

Baldessari's ‘anti-style’ of deadpan humour became the visual lingua franca of 1970s conceptualism. Many of his works, such as Astronauts and Businessmen (1988), used coloured dots to obscure the faces of their subjects. Elsewhere, works such as his Wrong series and his 1972 video Teaching a Plant the Alphabet explored the relationship between image and language. As art’s parameters expanded, Baldessari poked fun at the institutional reverence surrounding its new forms. His seminal 1971 video I am Making Art saw him lampoon the emerging aesthetics of performance art. The same year he invited a group of students to write ‘I will not make any more boring art’ on the walls of a gallery in Nova Scotia. His witty vernacular and use of found materials had a profound influence on artists such as Cindy Sherman, Richard Prince and David Salle.

Until his death in 2020, Baldessari continued to push the boundaries of art. His later work explored emojis and the language of the internet. He received numerous honours and awards during his career. In 2009 he won the Golden Lion for lifetime achievement at the Venice Biennale, and was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 2014.


JOHN BALDESSARI (1931-2020)

A B C Art (Low Relief): A/Ant, Etc. (Keyboard)

JOHN BALDESSARI (1931-2020)

Double Motorcyclists and Landscape (Icelandic 2003), from The Overlap Series

JOHN BALDESSARI (1931-2020)

Plant and Lamp (B+Y;Y+B)

John Baldessari (b. 1931)

Painting for Kubler

John Baldessari (b. 1931)

Horizontal Men (With One Luxuriating)

John Baldessari (B. 1931)

Grimm's Fairy Tales: The Frog King

JOHN BALDESSARI (B. 1931)

Helicopter and Insects (One Red), Version 1

John Baldessari (b. 1931)

Equestrian (Flesh) in Brackets with Orange Showdown

John Baldessari (b. 1931)

Goya Series: No One Knows Why

John Baldessari (b. 1931)

Animal (Orange) Descending Upon Kneeling Figure (Green)

JOHN BALDESSARI (1931-2020)

Dining Scene (Two Greys) with Disruption at Source (Red, Yellow, Blue)

John Baldessari (b. 1931)

Former Site of Duck Pond Bar 3003 National City Blvd. National City, Calif.

JOHN BALDESSARI (B. 1931)

Embracing Figures (Partial): Skaters/Cyclist

JOHN BALDESSARI (1931-2020)

Two Cars (One Red) in Different Environments

JOHN BALDESSARI (NÉ EN 1931)

Split Decision: Sheep (Blue) with One Person

John Baldessari (b. 1931)

Goya Series: There Isn't Time

John Baldessari (b. 1931)

Bowl (with Two Voices)

JOHN BALDESSARI (B. 1931)

Fugitive Essays (With Zebra)

JOHN BALDESSARI (B. 1931)

Inflatable Women/Divers/Baby

JOHN BALDESSARI (B. 1931)

Figure with Burden (Flesh/Exterior); Figure at Rest (Blue/Interior)

John Baldessari (b. 1931)

Four Men (with Guns Pointed at their Heads)

John Baldessari (b. 1931)

Double Vision: Warhol Red

JOHN BALDESSARI (B. 1931)

Two Figures and Two Figures (in Different Environments)

JOHN BALDESSARI (B. 1931)

Couple (with Observer)

JOHN BALDESSARI (B. 1931)

Landscape with Face

John Baldessari (b. 1931)

Double Vision: Warhol (Yellow and Violet)

John Baldessari (b. 1931)

Noses & Ears, Etc. (Part Three): (Black) Face and (Yellow) Face with Noses, Hands, and Bookcase

JOHN BALDESSARI (1931-2020)

Prima Facie (Fifth State): Abstract

JOHN BALDESSARI (B. 1931)

"Cruelty and Cowardice (With Malice)"

John Baldessari (b. 1931)

Two Men and Telephones (with Animals)

John Baldessari (b. 1931)

Prima Facie (Third state): Inconsolable/Exuberant

John Baldessari (B. 1931)

Noses & Ears, Etc. (Part Three: Altered Person (Violet) With Three Views/Altered Person (Yellow) With Three Viewers

John Baldessari (b. 1931)

Hitch-hiker (Splattered Blue)

John Baldessari (b. 1931)

Beethoven's Trumpet (With Ear) Opus #133

John Baldessari (b. 1931)

Blue Moon, Black Cloud (with Thicket)

John Baldessari (b. 1931)

Choosing (A Game for Two Players): Turnips

John Baldessari (B. 1931)

Various Chairs

JOHN BALDESSARI (1931-2020)

The Overlap Series: Leg (with Mouse) and Trunks (with Streetlight)

John Baldessari (b. 1931)

Female Head (Blue)/Red Peppers (With Path)

JOHN BALDESSARI (1931-2020)

Nose & Ears, Etc. (Part Three)

JOHN BALDESSARI (1931-2020)

A B C Art (Low Relief): A/Ant, Etc. (Keyboard)

John Baldessari (1931-2020)

Object (With Observer)

John Baldessari (B. 1931)

Two Relationships Early (Warm) / Late (Cool) with One Risky

John Baldessari (B. 1931)

Elbow Series: EMU

JOHN BALDESSARI (1931-2020)

Noses & Ears, Etc. (Part Two): (Violet) Face and (Blue) Face with (Pink) Noses and Ears and Pistol

John Baldessari (b. 1931)

Arms & Legs (Specif. Elbows & Knees), etc. (Part Two): Elbows, Knees, Shirt and Tie (with Blue Barrier)

John Baldessari (b. 1931)

Two Bleeding Hearts Nosebleed (Red and Green)