John Baldessari: Pure Beauty @ The Tate Modern

I recently had the chance to go check out one of the Tate Modern’s most recent exhibits, John Baldessari: Pure Beauty. It is the largest ever UK retrospective of the Californian artist, Baldessari, and will be running through till January 10th. The exhibit highlights the artists’ use of humor and a compulsion toward language and American pop culture.
On entering the first room, the viewer is immediately introduced to Baldessari’s unique brand of Conceptualism, which adopts elements from Dadaist nihilism and irony. Being familiar with the artist, I was quite excited to see that the first room contained a number of paintings that had survived the 1970’s Cremation Project, in which the artist burnt most of his earlier paintings at a crematorium. Furthermore he baked cookies from the ashes and attempted to feed them to his friends. Not surprisingly only one person actually accepted.
One of the things that I found most interesting about Baldessari’s work was his adoption of Dadaist commentary on authorship, particularly in relation to art. Many of the works that are featured in the exhibition use found photos or borrowed film stills, playing not only with this notion of ownership, but by bringing pop culture into call as well.
Baldessari’s early major works were known as the Text-paintings. He used large canvases and painted statements derived from art theory across them. Wanting to employ a commercial, lifeless style to ensure that the text would impact the viewer without distractions, Baldessari removed himself entirely from the creative process, employing others to make and prime his canvases, as well as a sign painter to actually paint them. Further developing questions of art and ownership.
The exhibit then moves on to the artists photographic works from the late 1960’s in which he sought to challenge the notions of artist’s eye by thoughtfully composing a photograph, setting up his camera perfectly, only to pick up the camera and move it (without consulting the view finder) to actually take the shot.
His work is at often times quite humorous, for example in the piece The Artist Hitting Various Objects With a Golf Club, he is able to transform something rather banal into something quite amusing, through his carefully selected title. Through his acute attention to words and there meaning – his works create a tension between what is said and what is meant.
Overall, the exhibit is a though provoking playful exposition of the ways in which we see and interpret the world around us. As Baldessari explains “doing art is the only thing I’ve come across that gives me any idea that I’m anywhere close to understanding what the universe is about. It all sounds very mystical, I know, but that’s what drives me.”

Posted via web from Everything Popular is Wrong

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