New John Baldessari exhibition opens tonight


Miro and Life in General is the artist’s second major exhibition at Marian Goodman Gallery, London.

Throughout his career, John Baldessari has explored the correlations and contrasts between painting and photography, and between image and language. Beginning with his early text and photo-text paintings from the 1960s, he has explored these dichotomies through hybrid compositions of photography, text and painted images. His 2010 Tate Modern retrospective, Pure Beauty, highlighted these early text-and-image paintings as well as his influential 1980s photo-based works, which explore the cultural and artistic impact of mass media; a topic that reverberates to this day. However, in the last five years, in series such as The Doubles, 2011 and 2012 and Pictures & Scripts, 2015 (his last body of work shown at Marian Goodman Gallery, London,) Baldessari’s focus has turned to the art historical canon and he has made the medium of painting the central subject of his work. These earlier series juxtapose images from 15th– 20th century paintings with texts from art history, popular music, and film noir, in order to deduce new meaning from art history and to create new ways of seeing.

The current series, Miro and Life in General, continues this investigation into the history of painting. Each work features a detail from one particular Miro painting and pairs it with a seemingly incongruous, classic, Hollywood film still, which Baldessari refers to as “Life in General.”. Each pairing is further partnered with a word – “Reliable”, “Necessary”, “True”, “Unfailing” etc. – each a synonym of the other. Neither the original root word, nor the specific Miro painting are revealed, asking viewers to responding their own way and to create their own new composite meaning. This pairing of disparate elements from art history, popular culture and language, both dissembles the canon, and reassembles it in a new form. As a towering figure of 20th century American conceptual art and as one of the most influential teachers of a generation of artists, Baldessari’s new works ultimately questions the very nature of the artist’s place within the canon of art history itself.


About Mark Westall

Mark Westall is the founder and editor of FAD magazine, a curation of the world’s most interesting culture, and Creative Director of FAD Agency, a strategy & creative agency working with brands to solve business problems using cultural tools. In 2008 following his passion for art he founded what has grown to become FAD magazine. FAD magazine is internationally recognized as a key figure within the emerging and contemporary art world, and has been selected as official partner by organizations as diverse as Moniker Art Fair, START, Volta and Christie’s. In addition Mark is a columnist for City Magazine.