This Production Designer Boss I had and I were having one of those tricky conversations about design, which thankfully turned into a conversation about art instead. I said something like, “I really like negative space and artists who utilize it” to hopefully sound smart and honest, and she ended up saying, “Well, you should really look into John Baldessari.”
It’s really simple work, but incredibly thought-provoking, and refreshing for contemporary, pastiche type stuff. Baldessari came up with these color-block ideas when he started putting price stickers over the faces of people in photographs, gathered from LA newspapers and magazines. Faceless and weirdly colorful, the power of each image is jilted, and with this power play, the absurd or hilarious or disturbing is often found. It’s really hard for me to dislike an artist who seeks the absurd.
He also lives and works in Los Angeles, but hates it. I love all good haters.
Cliche: Eskimo (Blue)
But my favorite Baldessari is incredibly romantic. And I’m not even sure if the romance is intended:
This “Green Kiss / Red Embrace (Disjunctive)” is currently standing at the Broad Contemporary Museum at LACMA, and it is breathtaking. Installed on a wall that does not face the main hall and that ridiculous Koons balloon bunny (UGH, ok, fine), finding this green and red piece is kind of stumbling into a room for lovers. It’s lovely that the two main red parts are meant to fit together, but are not together, and are suspended in a close but inevitable distance…forever. Forever? How. Romantic. And green and red, complimentary, opposite colors? The Hollywood Kiss faces? How! Romantic!
Check out the following Art Works Magazine article on John Baldessari – there’s video of him (he looks like Father Time) and some explanation of why he hates Los Angeles. Hint: It’s the reason why we all hate Los Angeles but stay anyway.