It’s only words

John Baldessari, Everything is Purged from this Painting, 1968

Thinking about books becoming art yesterday made me ponder the use of text – one of the raw materials of books – as art. Language is key to the conceptual art of the 1960s, with the idea taking precedence over aesthetics. Inevitably the resulting work could be rather dry and hard to engage with, but this is far from universally true. John Baldessari’s text paintings work on several levels for me. Firstly, Baldessari confuses matters by rendering his text in paint on canvas. Secondly, the text is often funny, especially in the context of painting.

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