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Widewalls: Learning to Read with John Baldessari

Artist John Baldessari 
Baldessari's ('58) First Major Survey in Latin America Just Opened
Elena Martinique

For half a decade, John Baldessari ('58) combined image and language in a varied practice that included photo collages, sculptures, and videos, at the same time investigating how art itself is made and understood.

Known for his approach of good-humored irreverence, he punctuated his work with visual puns, wordplay, instructions and quotations, touching upon deeper truths regarding how we communicate through culture, and how art might reinvent itself.

His wry, idiosyncratic practice will soon be explored at Museo Jumex in the first major survey of the artist’s work in Latin America.

Titled Learning to Read, the exhibition will feature more than 100 works including early instruction paintings and his iconic photo-collages, as well as videos, sculptures, text-based works and editions from a career spanning more than half a century.

The Practice of John Baldessari

One of the most influential artists of the past five decades, John Baldessari has been fusing photography, montage, painting and text to create complex compositions that explore the multifaceted interpretations of cultural iconography.

Using found imagery derived from a wide range of sources, he focuses on the perception and interpretation of visual elements and text, investigation the way meanings are formed. Demonstrating a lasting interest in language and semantics, he often uses puns or juxtaposed seemingly unrelated images and words.

Since text and image both used codes to convey their messages, he perceives them as interchangeable. Having a significant impact both as a contemporary artist and as an educator, he is widely considered to have been instrumental in the rise of the Los Angeles art scene and the Pictures Generation of the 1980s.

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Image: John Baldessari, 2015 © Manfredi Gioacchini courtesy of Museo Jumex.