Peter Aspden profiles John Baldessari in the Financial Times in preparation for the opening of the Baldessari retrospective:
Baldessari is another local hero but the art world has taken its time to realise it. His forthcoming retrospective at Tate Modern, Pure Beauty, is not the first to be granted him but surely the most prestigious: it travels to Barcelona and New York’s Metropolitan Museum (“unbelievable”, he says of that improbable stop) as well as coming back to its spiritual home at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, where he is one of the stars of the museum’s contemporary art collection.
Baldessari’s work, humorous, conceptual, promiscuously mixing text and image, has found its time; or perhaps our own time has finally found him. His wry and clever manipulation of words and pictures seem unexceptional to us today but they strayed a long way from the solemn orthodoxies of the 1950s, when he started his career.
Amid the leaden self-importance of the abstract expressionist generation of painters, Baldessari played the ingenue, seeing what would happen, as he puts it, if he took art at its word: “If it really was all about communication, why not really try to communicate, with things that everyone could understand? Why couldn’t text be art? Or photographs? And if you put words on a canvas, wasn’t it still painting?” […]
“What is it that Kierkegaard said: ‘My job in life is to make things more difficult for people’? I always felt that. But I understand it is a flirting game. It is like a woman trying to play hard-to-get, but not so hard that nobody is even going to try.”
Gently Rebellious Artist John Baldessari (Financial Times)