John Baldessari is considered one of the pioneers of California conceptual artists. An abstract painter when he emerged in the 1960s, Baldessari worked in gestural style of painting. By the end of the decade he began using words and phrases in much of his work. He grew bored with his body of work, and in 1970 he conducted the “Cremation Project.” Rather than just evolving and moving on from his work, he took all of his artwork created from 1953 to 1966 and incinerated all of it at a local crematorium. He called it the Cremation Project and with his wry wit and humor still calls it his “best piece to date.”
"I will not make anymore boring art."
Born on June 17, 1931 in National City, California, John Baldessari is one of the most influential artists of our time. A conceptual artist that vowed to “never make any more boring art,” Baldessari has lived up to his promise. A body of work that includes repurposed images, installations, video, performance art, print, photography, text and paint, he always keeps us thinking with his mischievous charm. His undeniable sense of humor rises to the surface of the artwork while challenging the way we associate words to meaning and pictures to narrative.
In 1971 he wrote “I will not make any more boring art,” over and over again in cursive on a sheet of paper as if he were punished in school. Paintings with riddles and pre-existing images took hold of his canvas. In the 1970s he abandoned painting altogether using a wide variety of mediums. He began exploring how photographs communicate a narrative and questioned the meaning and association of words to image. He began arranging images in ways to suggest a different narrative from the original composition of the photograph. Cropping, collating unrelated images, blocking out faces and objects with colored dots all forcing us to think about what the image is communicating.
In 1959 he began teaching art in the San Diego school system. Baldessari famously became an influential teacher of art and inspired numerous students that went on to become famous artists like David Salle, Barbara Bloom and James Welling. His body of work and influence has wide reach with artists like Barbara Kruger and Cindy Sherman expressing the impact of Baldessari in their work.
Baldessari has been widely recognized and honored by the Guggenheim Fellowship, Governor’s Award for Lifetime Achievement (California), Lifetime Achievement Americans for the Arts, Rolex Mentor Initiative, Golden Lion, Museum of Contemporary Art Honoree (LA), and much more.
There is no doubt that Baldessari has been an influential player in American culture, not only through his work but through other artists inspired by him.