John Baldessari, Top Pacific Standard Time Artist

Jori Finkel of the Los Angeles Times wrote a recent article outlining the top 20 artists that will be featured the most in Pacific Standard Time exhibitions.

Top of the list: John Baldessari

(whose work will be shown in 11 Pacific Standard Time exhibitions)

LAMA is offering two John Baldessari phototext paintings for sale in the October 9, 2011 Auction of The Collection of Richard Dorso.  Unlike at the museums, you can actually take one of these home. 

 

Lot 160
John Baldessari
8th and D, National City
1966-68
Photographic emulsion and acrylic on canvas
Retains Molly Barnes Gallery label verso
14” x 14”
Provenance: Molly Barnes Gallery, Los Angeles
Literature: Forthcoming catalogue raisonne, #1968.5
John Baldessari: National City, Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, 1996, pg. 105.
Exhibited: “John Baldessari: Pure Beauty”, Molly Barnes Gallery, Los Angeles, October 6 – 28, 1968
Estimate: $80,000-120,000

 

Lot 161
John Baldessari
Sleep While You Grow Rich
1966-67
Ink on canvas
Signed and dated “Baldessari 67” recto; Molly Barnes Gallery label verso
12” x 12”
Provenance: Molly Barnes Gallery, Los Angeles
Literature: Forthcoming catalogue raisonne, #1967.5
Exhibited: “John Baldessari: Pure Beauty”, Molly Barnes Gallery, Los Angeles, October 6 – 28, 1968
Estimate: $80,000-120,000

In 1959 John Baldessari emerged from his post-graduate studies at the Otis Art Institute and Chouinard Institute a painter, though he was supremely frustrated and discouraged by his experiences in Los Angeles. While there, he lacked gallery space, was confused about what kind of artist he wanted to become, and he felt himself fading into irrelevance. He decided it was time to return to his hometown. Baldessari’s homecoming to National City, a working-class suburb between San Diego and the Mexican border, would be considered a poor decision by most. At the time, the town was known for little more than its “Mile of Cars”, a stretch of highway crowded with new and used car lots. He made his living teaching public school art courses, and with the help of his father, a real estate agent, he found a tiny studio space at the rear of a Laundromat. After searching for inspiration to paint, he abstained from traditional landscapes and overwrought contemporary variations in favor of photographs that document his hometown. He initially used his photos as “a sort of note-taking” and soon concluded, “‘Why do I have to translate this into a painting? What’s wrong with a photograph?’”

It was in 1966 that Baldessari created a new form that emerged from what art critic and historian Jan Avgikos calls “a void characterized by cultural isolation, boredom, and estrangement.” From 1966 to 1970, Baldessari created phototext paintings that blur the distinction between painting and photography, the result of his existence in National City sequestered from any major art scene. Although his images are more snapshots with distracting obstructions and newspaper-style graininess, they depict with stark realism an understanding of National City as it really is. For his phototexts, including 8th and D, National City (1966-68), Baldessari “hired a commercial sign painter who was instructed to use as straightforward a lettering style as possible.”

At the Molly Barnes Gallery on La Cienega in 1968, Baldessari, with assistance from artist David Antin, somehow convinced Barnes to host a one-week show between two already scheduled artists. She agreed, but Baldessari had to pay the cost of the U-Haul truck to carry his works from National City. Instead of cash, he gave Barnes A Painting That Is Its Own Documentation (1968). This show was his first in Los Angeles, the city he fled a decade earlier in response to dissatisfaction with his own incessant figure drawings and abstract expressionist recreations. Paintings from the show, including Wrong (1967), now housed in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, reveal an artist leading with a singular vision of art and nothing to lose. Sleep While You Grow Rich (1966-67) was also exhibited, which Richard Dorso bought on a quiet October afternoon.

- Paul DesMarais, Contributing Writer

Literature:
Avgikos, Jan. “Stating the Obvious.” John Baldessari: National City. Ed. Hugh M. Davies and Andrea Hales. San Diego: Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, 1996. 18-21. Print.
Hales, Andrea. “National City Revisited.” John Baldessari: National City. Ed. Hugh M. Davies and Andrea Hales. San Diego: Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, 1996. 10-13. Print.
Plagens, Peter. “First Break: Peter Plagens on John Baldessari.” ArtForum Feb. 2002. Print.

 

 

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