John Baldessari. What Is Painting. 1966-68

John Baldessari What Is Painting 1966-68

  • Not on view

In the mid-1960s Baldessari began to reconsider not just painting but the practice of artmaking itself. Isolated from major art centers, living in sleepy National City, near San Diego, California, Baldessari thought about his painting activity and realized that texts—intellectual, occasionally ironic strings of words in particular—could often express artistic solutions better than representational paintings. He hired a commercial sign painter to produce the lettering on his canvases, upsetting the notion that the artist's hand in creating art is as important as the look of the artwork itself. In What Is Painting, Baldessari appropriates a text he found in an instructional book, turning sentences on how to compose an artwork into a self-referential painting.

Gallery label from From the Collection: 1960-69, March 26, 2016 - March 12, 2017.
Acrylic on canvas
67 3/4 x 56 3/4" (172.1 x 144.1 cm)
Gift of Donald L. Bryant, Jr.
Object number
© 2021 John Baldessari
Painting and Sculpture

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