John Baldessari: Pure Beauty [Metropolitan Museum] Reduction | Revision | Conjunction

Knowing my field report had come due, I made a visit to Chelsea, the Stan Douglas show up now at David Zwirner specifically, P.S.1 in Queens as well. I found nothing that particularly inspired me [which I find rare for P.S.1*].

As discussed in class, anything at some point can be spoke of in general Deleuzian terms. Though such a lack of specificity of subject I find paralyzing when trying to write. I had to remind myself that the concepts Deleuze explores most [relation, difference, action, creation] are not Deleuzian per say, but a legacy of philosophical ideas that Deleuze works through and interrogates at length to distill a lyrical understanding of thought and process at its most robust.

I feel I must [mentally] return to the John Baldessari retrospective Pure Beauty at the Metropolitan Museum of Art that closed back in January to find an artist whose engagement with the themes most of interest to Deleuze can be unpacked in an authentic way.

Baldessari’s art making practice has remained playfully ribald, succinct and conversational while many of his contemporaries of the pioneering early stages of conceptual art in the mid-late 60’s seemed most attracted to self-reference [art on art] and anti-aesthetic critique. Like the avant-guarde artists of a generation before, Baldessari is intent on reevaluating the terms of our aesthetic language. 

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In Choosing [A Game for Two Players]: Carrots, 1972 [See slideshow, Image 3], Baldessari sought, through a loose control group, which of three carrots, placed and thereby judged in varying orders, would be selected as the most ideal specimen of “carrot.” The experiment plays with our perceptual faculties of difference and distinction and begs to question the arbitrary nature of our curatorial instincts. Carrots resonates with the philosophy of Deleuze and Bergson in so far as the relational aspects of ‘this as well as that’ is implied in the frame of any-space whatever.

Tips for Artists Who Want to Sell, 1966-1968 [See slideshow, Image 1] derives from Baldessari’s interest in the rules by which one creates; specifically, the delimited structures of subject and composition encouraged/discouraged by the craft-orientated publications on painting and photography of the time. In this work, Baldaessari deconstructs the rubric of an “acceptable” and/or more commercially viable picture. This brings to mind Deleuze’s arguments on creation. True creation is not a given to process, but moreover, a rare development that expands the perceptual lexicon of an age; to take us to where we have not yet been. This philisophical direction is embedded as well in Econ-O-Wash, 14th and Highland, National City, Calif., 1966-1968 [See slideshow, Image 2]. For this photograph on canvas, not only does the image [shot haphazardly out the driver-side door of his passing car] violate compositional clarity of subject, but the parameters of the canvas are dictated by the dimensions of the time/space considerations of the environment in which the image resides:

“Some of the photographs,” Baldessari explained, “were originally taken for non-art use, some were taken to violate then-current photographic norms, and others were taken by pointing the camera blindly out the window while driving.” For his photo-text works, he prescribed conditions in which he made a limited number of aesthetic decisions. He captured the snapshot of the local car wash, without the aid of a viewfinder, to record the ordinary, unglamorous environs of his hometown, illustrating his conviction that “truth is beautiful no matter how ugly.” He then recorded the location for the caption, which was installed by a professional sign painter. The images were neither edited nor retouched in any way. The only “art signal” was the canvas support, and its format was determined by the maximum size that could fit through the doors of Baldessari’s Volkswagen bus.               –Metropolitan Museum exhibition catalog, Pure Beauty.

Therefore a clear bridge is made: in order to take [in this case, a visual] language forward, it must use the practical terms of its time [for reasons of legibility]; however, be expressed in such a way that its potentiality for new meaning be opened in an altogether new way. Here the writing of Beckett and Kafka reflect a parallel approach; both wrote in a very essential, conservative fashion, however express incredibly descriptive conditions of perceptive flux. Also of similar interest, the films of David Lynch, in which dimensions of light and dark, sanity and madness live on the same [immanent] plane, each an element of the other; as the complexities of perversion and menace take place on familiar suburban streets, in the light of day.

Man and Woman With Bridge, [1984] and Pelicans Staring at Woman With Nose Bleeding, [1984] both reveal Baldessari’s interest in the associative dimensions of montage. On Man and Woman With Bridge Baldessai writes,

The subject is the space between, the magnetic field created by the peripheral poles. A way to scrutinize relationships…

And concerning Pelicans Staring at Woman With Nose Bleeding,

As soon as you put together two things you have a story.

Baldessari fully understands the relational implication between two sovereign entities or shots is an active, causal link; a generative force of meaning. The creative potential of this image collision as a total development, fascinated Deleuze, especially as it pertains to the cinematic space [in motion, over time]. This intersection of difference as a point of inflection, a concept posed in Bernard Cache’s Earth Moves, seems particularly relevant here as well. But anyway no resolution is due, as no matter what the theoretical problem Baldessari engages with, he foremost proceeds with a sense of humor, a wink and a nudge.

Irrational thought should be followed absolutely and logically. –Sol LeWitt

Here John Baldessari sings LeWitt [1972] from Sol LeWitt, Sentences on Conceptual Art [1969]:

Also an excellent interview W/ John Baldessari C/O Tate Modern:

Pure Beauty | Tate Modern

*  At Land is on view in the Basement Cinema at P.S.1 until May 2, 2011.

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One Response to “John Baldessari: Pure Beauty [Metropolitan Museum] Reduction | Revision | Conjunction”

  1. […] 1972 “In Choosing [A Game for Two Players]: Carrots, 1972 [See slideshow, Image 3], Baldessari sought, through a loose control group, which of three carrots, placed and thereby judged in varying orders, would be selected as the most ideal specimen of “carrot.” The experiment plays with our perceptual faculties of difference and distinction and begs to question the arbitrary nature of our curatorial instincts. Carrots resonates with the philosophy of Deleuze and Bergson in so far as the relational aspects of ‘this as well as that’ is implied in the frame of any-space whatever (“John Baldessari: Pure Beauty.” Immanent Terrain).” […]

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