Baldessari's Double Bill

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If you don't know about John Baldessari, you can get up to speed by checking out this fun six-minute documentary by Henry Joost and Ariel Shulman:


Got it? Now you are prepared for the show at Margo Leavin Gallery in West Hollywood, the twelfth time that the artist has shown there. A pioneer of Conceptual Art and influential teacher, Baldessari's work was the subject of a retrospective that came to LACMA in 2010. The wit and wisdom so obvious in that exhibition are evident in Double Bill (Part II) on view through June 30.


John Baldessari: Double Bill (Part 2): ... and Cézanne,  2012
Varnished Inkjet print on canvas with acrylic, oil paint, and oil stick
76-3/4 x 54 inches


For those accustomed to seeing his art composed from film stills or photographs, the show will be a surprise. Baldessari often opines that art comes from art and, in this show, Baldessari has drawn his imagery right from art history, from reproductions of paintings by artists as varied as Cézanne and Léger, Max Ernst and David Hockney. Highly recognizable motifs are combined with more obscure ones and each painting is captioned with the name of a single artist: "and Cézanne," "and Hockney," for example. Anyone familiar with art history will find their mind racing to solve the puzzle of who might be the unnamed first artist on the "double bill."


John Baldessari: Double Bill (Part 2): ... and Ernst,  2012
Varnished Inkjet print on canvas with acrylic and oil paint
69-1/4 x 60 inches

Even if you are a novice in realm of art history, these large colored canvases are a pleasure to behold as visual mash-ups. As he has with his photographic works, Baldessari has eliminated various elements from an image and occasionally painted new parts into the composition. Some decisions have an apparent logic.


John Baldessari: Double Bill (Part 2): ... and Hockney,  2012
Varnished Inkjet print on canvas with acrylic and oil paint
90 x 35-1/2 inches

In the work titled "…and Hockney," Baldessari lopped off the head of Hockney’s 1968 portrait of an art collector and placed it above the 15th century Giovanni di Paolo painting of The Beheading of St. John the Baptist. He further altered the scene by changing the victim’s spouting red blood to the blue of a Hockney swimming pool.


John Baldessari: Double Bill (Part 2): ... and Léger,  2012
Varnished Inkjet print on canvas with acrylic and oil paint
62-1/4 x 60 inches

Baldessari, 82, has spent five decades derailing viewers expectations and clearly has no intention of slowing his pace.

Having received nearly every major honor including the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the 2009 Venice Bienniale, this year Baldessari will be given the Kaiser Ring Award in Goslar, Germany.

Banner image: Installation view of John Baldessari: Double View (Part II) at the Margo Leavin Gallery. All photographs courtesy of the artist and Margo Leavin Gallery. Photos by Brian Forrest