Monday, January 6, 2020

John Baldessari, R.I.P.

I was sad to read in today's paper that John Baldessari, one of the greats of conceptual art, died last week.  I've seen and admired many of his works in various museums over the years, but the one that made the greatest impact was one that I saw at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles almost exactly ten years ago.

Here's what I wrote about it in my blog on January 24, 2010:

"Finally, my nomination for the most startling art I've seen all year (I know, it's still January....).

John Baldessari  "Two Highrises (with Disruptions) / Two Witnesses (Red and Green)

At first glance you think "just another 9/11 riff" but then you notice that it was made in 1990.

The docent thought the 'twin towers' were a small model made for low-end movie special effects, but didn't sound 100% confident in her story.  Who knows!  Baldessari made the piece for an exhibit on relationships, and apparently the couple on the top were supposed to be the main subjects of the picture.  Today, of course, we are riveted by the burning towers.  MoCA has only recently put the piece on display for the first time since 9/11."

I've thought about this piece many times in the ten years since I saw it, and how often can you recall a single work of art with that kind of lasting impact?  Professor Baldessari, we'll miss you.

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