A Brief History of John Baldessari, 2012 – title screen
In a way it’s just a short leap from Tips for Artists Who Want to Sell to the three things John Baldessari believes every young artist should know, though rather than painting these he chose to impart them to Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, the directors of the short – very short, we’re talking six minutes here – documentary A short History of John Baldessari. It turns out it’s possible to find out quite a lot about Baldessari in six minutes, though I suspect knowing a certain amount about the man and his work before hand does help.
John Baldessari, Tips for Artists Who Want to Sell, 1966-1968
I’ve written about John Baldessari’s text paintings before but this seems like a good time to go back to one in particular: while I’m thinking about words of advice, Baldessari’s Tips for Artists Who Want to Sell seems like a good work to write about. There’s something pleasing – to me at least – about the idea of using the conventions of painting to produce something so unapologetically unpainterly. Lets face it, if Baldessari’s tips are even a little bit useful, by ignoring his own advice so comprehensively surely he’s ensuring his own work is unsaleable?
Except of course, he’s John Baldessari and as such he’s very far from whatever part of the art market it is that prefers paintings to be of landscapes, flowers or the madonna and child.
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.