A Brief History of John Baldessari

I recently went down a YouTube rabbit hole and came across a great little video about conceptual artist John Baldessari (narrated by Tom Waits). What an interesting guy.

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ABOVE: John Baldessari, Stonehenge (With Two Persons) Violet, 2005, mixografin print on handmade paper, edition 60, 29 x 32 inches

While I recognize the importance of conceptual art to the modern art canon, more often than not, it’s total bullshit. One conceptual artist I do admire is John Baldessari – he manages to push the boundaries of art without being annoyingly pretentious about it.

I recently saw a great little video about him on YouTube, and in it, he comes across as a pretty decent guy (not pretentious at all). I had planned to embed it, but after reading a bit about copyright, I’ve decided instead to provide a link. It’s only 6 minutes long and it’s super fun.

Here’s the link.

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Defending Conceptualism

Let’s be honest, a lot of conceptual art is total bullsh*t. Yeah. I said it. More than any other genre, it is is academic, vague, and elitist. And now, the defense…sort of.

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ABOVE: Martin Creed, Work No. 876, 2008, cardboard boxes, 42.4 x 23.9 x 18.5 inches

Let’s be honest, a lot of conceptual art is total bullshit. Yeah. I said it.

Don’t get me wrong, concepts are important – maybe even more so than aesthetics – but there’s something to be said for accessibility too.

More often than any other genre, conceptualism is academic, vague, and elitist.

And now, the defense…sort of:

Most of what passes for conceptualism today, isn’t conceptual at all.

In it’s original incarnation, it was actually quite brilliant…and necessary…and noble.

It fought against the commodification of art, it subverted the gallery system, and it called to question the role of the artist, authenticity, and ownership.

By contrast, today’s conceptualists are anything but. They often sell their “concepts” for millions, they’re beloved by the establishment, and the last thing they want to do, is rebel against the system.

The defense rests. Maybe conceptualism should too.