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.
Medium
Acrylic on canvas
Dimensions
67 3/4 x 56 3/4" (172.1 x 144.1 cm)
Credit
Gift of Donald L. Bryant, Jr.
Object number
522.1998
Copyright
© 2021 John Baldessari
Department
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 [email protected].

Licensing

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).

MoMA licenses archival audio and select out of copyright film clips from our film collection. At this time, MoMA produced video cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. All requests to license archival audio or out of copyright film clips should be addressed to Scala Archives at [email protected]. Motion picture film stills cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. For access to motion picture film stills for research purposes, please contact the Film Study Center at [email protected]. For more information about film loans and our Circulating Film and Video Library, please visit https://www.moma.org/research-and-learning/circulating-film.

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

Feedback

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