John Baldessari. High Flight. 1986

John Baldessari High Flight 1986

  • Not on view

“I’m looking for the images that are not in the dictionary,” Baldessari has said. “I like to confound people with something completely simple, artful, and on the other hand create a very complex, murky, troublesome piece.” The seven found photographs that form High Flight “are about something transcendent, something like the Freudian superego, something above, godlike, the ideal.” The inverted–T form references a crucifix and projects the image upward.

In the second photograph from the top, a man hangs, unsupported, high above a landscape. In the bottom row are underwater scenes whose figures are not subject to gravity, despite their position at the base of the work. The central image of five synchronized swimmers in a graceful ring is flanked by a reversed and repeated image of a diver sitting among fish. Baldessari concentrates on opposites with these flopped images, which are tinted orange and blue—complementary colors that he associates, he has said, with danger and with the ideal, respectively. While Baldessari’s works often brim over with significance and associations, the artist frustrates any attempts to find definitive, closed meaning.

Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights since 1980, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2007, p. 77.
Gelatin silver prints with oil tint and synthetic polymer paint, mounted and framed in four parts
Overall 8' 7 3/8" x 64 5/8" (263.9 x 164.8 cm)
Sid R. Bass Fund
Object number
© 2020 John Baldessari
Painting and Sculpture

Installation views

How we identified these works

In 2018–19, MoMA collaborated with Google Arts & Culture Lab on a project using machine learning to identify artworks in installation photos. That project has concluded, and works are now being identified by MoMA staff.

If you notice an error, please contact us at


If you would like to reproduce an image of a work of art in MoMA’s collection, or an image of a MoMA publication or archival material (including installation views, checklists, and press releases), please contact Art Resource (publication in North America) or Scala Archives (publication in all other geographic locations).

All requests to license audio or video footage produced by MoMA should be addressed to Scala Archives at Motion picture film stills or motion picture footage from films in MoMA’s Film Collection cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. For licensing motion picture film footage it is advised to apply directly to the copyright holders. For access to motion picture film stills please contact the Film Study Center. More information is also available about the film collection and the Circulating Film and Video Library.

If you would like to reproduce text from a MoMA publication or, please email If you would like to publish text from MoMA’s archival materials, please fill out this permission form and send to


This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information or spotted an error, please send feedback to