John Baldessari
Films et vidéos des années 1970 /
1970s Film and Video Work

2010.04.01 — 2010.05.01

VOX, centre de l’image contemporaine

« All art comes from art », soutient John Baldessari. L’artiste de Los Angeles a souvent été considéré comme l’un des représentants les plus importants de l’art appropriationniste de la Côte ouest américaine. Pourtant son travail, plus particulièrement ses films et ses vidéos, ne repose pas sur le simple geste de s’approprier une image ou un texte déjà existant et de le recontextualiser. Baldessari traite plutôt le matériel approprié comme un problème. À cette manière de problématiser l’art s’ajoute une attitude impertinente qui situent ses œuvres des années 1970 dans une tradition conceptuelle marquée par un humour pénétrant absolument délectable.

Évidemment, la pratique de Baldessari ne repose pas sur des contenus conceptuels strictement analytiques, elle ne cherche pas à produire un art théorique, elle relève bien davantage d’une pensée ironique qui met en question la signification de l’art et de son système.

“All art comes from art,” John Baldessari has insisted1. Although the Los Angeles artist has often been viewed as one of the most important representatives of West Coast “appropriationism,” his works—especially his films and videos—are not informed merely by the action of appropriating and recontextualizing existing images or text. Rather, Baldessari treats the appropriated material as a problem. This manner of problematizing art was accompanied by an impertinent attitude that locates his 1970s output within a conceptual tradition, marked by an incisive humour that is absolutely delectable.

It is obvious that Baldessari’s practice is not based on strictly analytical conceptual content. The goal is not to produce theoretical art; it has far more to do with ironic thinking, a questioning of the meaning of art and of its system.

A work of art is clearly a tangible presence, but it also produces discourse capable of taking different forms. Exhibition is its principal manifestation, although its other modes of existence — documentation, description, commentary — can contribute to expounding and, significantly, transforming its intent. For, as André Malraux so aptly remarked, “metamorphosis is not a matter of chance; it is a law governing the life of every work of art”. The work of art is modified by the effect of time and its reception changes according to the sense attached to it by audiences and commentators, as well as artists. It also changes according to the context in which it is presented or its relationship with the practices which come after it. “Art dœs its work”, Gérard Genette would say; it has plural modes of existence.

This exhibition, which takes the metaphorical form of a cabinet — a place where works of art or curious objects are gathered with the intent of stirring our passion for knowledge — seeks to explore the power of presenting works in relative proximity to one another, thereby creating connections, sometimes obvious and at others unexpected, which help render their modus operandi even more intense. This is the sort of “art looking at art” that has been described as reflexive. Like an exercise in memory or familiarity, this presentation also encourages a reading — by no means chronological — both circular and specular and facilitates multiple and overlapping connections. It also produces a promiscuity which stimulates dialogue and encounters between works of art with diverse aesthetics and from different periods.

Cargo Collective,
Inc. Los Angeles, Calif.
Image Credits