Press Release of the Exhibition
'Raised Eyebrows/ Furrowed Foreheads: Part II'
May 7th > Jun 20th 2009
“Raised Eyebrows/Furrowed Foreheads”, is John Baldessari´s second solo exhibition at Cristina Guerra Contemporary Art.
Baldessari is considered one of the artists to have revolutionized the artistic language by being a precursor in the use of photography as a mainstream medium, instead of just being shown in specialized galleries. He is also known for his exploration of language as an artistic tool and for the symbioses between painting and photography that he has explored for the past five decades.
Constantly capable to reinventing himself - working on a vast array of media – Baldessari formed, together with Bruce Nauman and Ed Ruscha, the Los Angeles conceptual art movement. His notoriety will be recognized again this year with the presentation of the Golden Lion Lifetime Achievement Award, bestowed by the Venice Biennale. His oeuvre, in the words of Daniel Birnbaum, curator of the exhibition that will open in June, “has opened new poetic, conceptual and social possibilities for artists around the globe and will remain a source of inspiration for generations to come'.
The current exhibition continues a group of works that the artist has developed around the idea of the body as a fragment, which has come together in series such as: Noses & Ears, Etc., (2006-07) and Arms & Legs (Specif. Elbows & Knees), Etc., (2007-). His fascination with the body, which questions the emphasis either on the totality or on the detail, is well visible in the present series and reconsiders questions that were clearly stated in works the artist has done in the 60’s.
In “Raised Eyebrows/ Furrowed Foreheads”, there is an evident presence of the ironic characteristic of his interventions (close to slapstick comedy) where a game of facial expressions suggest emotions and states of mind, which offer the viewer a reflection on the specificity of the present times.
The manipulation of the fragmented body transforms anatomies into abstractions. The relationship with the surrounding space, as well as a game of colours assume a key role, where an affinity with Pop Art is still present through the contrasting exercise of colours.
The use of photography (film stills that the artist has collected), melts with three dimensional painting through the relief of the support which emphasizes once again the question of obsolete notions of discipline and genre.
Current projects include a one-man exhibition at Haus Lange, Krefeld, until June 2009. In October 2009 a retrospective exhibition will open at the Tate Modern, London, which will travel to MACBA, Barcelona; LACMA, Los Angeles; and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, through 2011. A multi-volume Catalogue Raisonne of the artist's work is currently being prepared.
The first volume, covering works from 1953-1978, is scheduled for release in Spring 2011.
Solo presentations of his work over the past five years have included exhibitions at: Kunstmuseum Bonn, Bonn (2007); Portikus, Frankfurt (2007); Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens, Deurle, Belgium (2006); Carré d'Art Musée Contemporain de Nimes, France (2005-2006); and Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin (2004).
Baldessari has received many honors, including the 2008 Biennial Award for Contemporary Art, Bonnefantenmuseum, Maastricht, The Netherlands; American Academy of Arts & Letters, 2008; Archives of American Art Medal, Washington, D.C., 2007; the Rolex Mentor and Protege Arts Initiative, 2006-2007; the Lifetime Achievement Award, Americans for the Arts, New York, 2005; and American Academy of Arts & Sciences, 2004. He has received honorary degrees from the National University of Ireland, San Diego State University, and Otis Art Institute of Parsons School of Design.
Press Release of the Exhibition
'NOSES & EARS, ETC.'
a new series of works by John Baldessari
Jun 7th > Sep 9th 2006
Cristina Guerra Contemporary Art is pleased to announce that John Baldessari, one of the most important and influential American artists to emerge since the 1960s, will be showing NOSES & EARS, ETC., an entirely new series of works, comprised of framed three-dimensional digital photographic prints with acrylic paint. This one-man show is one of the artist’s first in a commercial gallery in the city of Lisbon.
Born in National City, California in1931, John Baldessari was influenced by Dada and Surrealist literary and visual ideas. He rose to prominence in the late1960s when he began combining mass media imagery with language, Pop vigour with Conceptual density. Baldessari, early in his long and much celebrated career, began incorporating layers of found materials (billboard posters, photographs, film stills, bits of conversations) on his plain white canvases. These montages, which result from the juxtaposition, edition and cropping of image and text, served to thwart narrative coherence and play off chance relationships between otherwise discreet elements. His photo-based work was also a means of introducing photography into galleries, in an ongoing attempt to undermine certain taboos.
In 1970, Baldessari cremated most of his pre-1966 paintings. This marked his turn from painting to embrace contemporary strategies of cross-over and collisions between mediums. His subsequent work, nonetheless, remained steeped in the issues of painting. During the 1970s, Baldessari, who had been using snapshots of his hometown, discovered a wealth of images in photo shops. He began “dumpster diving”, gathering B-movie film stills, publicity shots and press material. “At a certain point I had these huge folders, each one classified according to a subject matter or genre: people with guns, people kissing, Indians and cowboys falling off horses, getting shot, getting shot with arrows –almost every plot device. Then I cropped the cheap, recycled imagery to give exhausted images new meaning, or at least something other than the original meaning” [John Baldessari in conversation with Jeremy Blake, Artforum, March 2004, p. 163]. This was achieved by gathering these readily available images in grids or freely arranged, multi-panel combinations that could elicit a range of meanings, rather than a single, fixed definition.
By the 1980s, he had abandoned text, turning to found pictures alone as a sufficient means of expounding his composites. Later, he adopted coloured sticker-like dots, painted in acrylic, as a means of erasing the identity of people and flattening the image. Like these previous works, NOSES & EARS, ETC. is a continuation of the artist’s interest in the idea of editing and censoring, questioning and foregrounding “what we leave in and what we leave out” [expression taken from a conversation with Christian Boltanski, entitled “What is Erased”, see:
Like the title itself denotes, this new series focuses ears and noses by excising the rest of the face. These over-paintings are a continuation of the artist’s wry game of omission, which has marked his work in an overall sense. Baldessari blocks out the lips, eyes, wrinkles and spots, any telltale features of a person, by over-painting. In doing so, he obscures the face, shattering instant identification or interpretation of these images.
“What I leave out is more important. I want that absence, which creates a kind of anxiety” [Artforum, March 2004].
As Baldessari himself points out, the eye or lips in isolation have extensively been focused in art history, for instance, Man Ray’s much reproduced ‘Lips’ from 1966 or the infamous eye-slicing in ‘Un Chien Andalou’. The nose and ears, inversely, do not readily catch the observer and look strange and uncanny in isolation, somewhat phallic when enlarged.
This series also tells us something of what Baldessari terms “the return of the repressed. The more you try to blot it out, the more it is going to be there” [Artforum, March 2004]. In fact, some of the works in the series are reminiscent of hoods, which heighten the dimension of phantasmagoria, or raising of the spectres, that underpins photography and is extensive to these works.
Born the son of an Austrian coal miner and Danish nurse who arrived in America during the Depression, John Baldessari has been living in Santa Monica, California, since 1970. He attended San Diego State University and did post-graduate work at Otis Art Institute and Chouinard Art Institute and U.C. Berkeley. He has received honorary degrees from the National University of Ireland, San Diego State University and Otis Art Institute of the Parsons School of Design.
His remarkable tenure as a teacher at the California Institute of the Arts has influenced generations of artists, such as Matt Mullican, Paul McCarthy and Mike Kelley. John Baldessari’s work has been featured in more than 120 solo exhibitions in the U.S. and Europe and in over 300 group exhibitions. In 2007 he will collaborate with the Kunst Museum Bonn and Bonner Kunstverein, Germany, for an exhibition celebrating musical connections with his work. In 2005, a two-part retrospective of his work was held at the Museum Moderner Kunst Stifting Ludwig Wien and the Kunsthaus Graz in Austria and the Museé d’Art Contemporain, Nimes. ‘Somewhere Between Almost Right and Not Quite (with Orange)’ took place at the Deutsche Guggenheim in Berlin in 2004/5. Other recent major solo exhibitions were held at the Reykjavik Art Museum, Reykjavik (2001), the Sprengel Museum, Hannover, and the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden (1999); the Museo d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Trento e Rovereto, Trento, Italy (2000/1); and the Museum für Gegenwartkunst, Zurich and Witte de With, Rotterdam (1998).