While I was in L.A., I managed to pop into LACMA for a brief jaunt through the John Baldessari retrospective that just opened this past Sunday. I have to admit that his work had always struck me as a little clinically conceptual — the ultimate in art-industry inside-baseball. (Full disclosure: Prior to this show, my exposure to him had been limited to group shows.) But this exhibition, which gathers more than 150 objects dating back to the early ’60s, has convinced me that he has a very wry sense of humor, even if it’s an art-nerdy one.
In one video, he says “I am making art” over and over — an absurdist art mantra. In his Ghetto Boundary Project, from 1969, he marked the boundaries of a San Diego, Calif. ghetto (as defined by the local planning commission) with stickers — making him an O.G. street artist. In the seriously stonerrific video, Six Colorful Inside Jobs, from 1977, he has a house painter paint a small cube six different colors. I was hypnotized.
There are unusual photographic collages and arrangements and a giant brain sculpture that incorporates video of the viewer. (Yep, it was a head-trip.) Moreover, the imagery is saturated with Southern California — images of film stills, palm trees, blue skies and wide streets lined with bungalows. I really dug it.
Pure Beauty is up through Sept. 12. If for some reason, you can’t make it. There’s always his digital app, which lets users create their own 17th century Dutch still-life. Plus: read Christopher Knight’s review in the L.A. Times here.