Storyboard (in 4 Parts)
September 14–November 2, 2013
Monika Sprüth and Philomene Magers are delighted to present a solo exhibition of Los Angeles based John Baldessari, with a new series of large-format storyboard canvases created this year.
For almost five decades now, John Baldessari has numbered among the most important figures of contemporary art. His uninhibited and tabooless perspective onto art and the world in which it arises, along with his ambivalent attitude toward painting, Concept Art, and Appropriation Art, have had an enduring influence on several generations of visual artists – from David Salle and Jack Goldstein to Cindy Sherman and Barbara Kruger.
The storyboard canvases on display, measuring up to 2.60 meters in height, were printed in an inkjet process and overpainted with acrylic by Baldessari here and there. Each storyboard consists of two photographs ripped out of newspapers and magazines, a text panel which may implant a scene in the head of the viewer, and a color chart which takes up the hues of the individual pictorial elements.
The pictures created in this manner not only evoke the storyboard, an aid to film production used by directors for developing a narrative sequence, but also make reference to earlier works by Baldessari: his collages of found film stills furnished with colored circles and surfaces, the philosophical witticisms on canvas typical of his early œuvre, in which the picture is replaced by a text about the picture, or his serial deconstruction of motifs into simple color charts done in pantone colors. The works may provoke both amusement and disquiet, and they guarantee that the viewer becomes more acutely aware of the interwoven processes of making art, viewing art, and understanding art. The storyboards have an almost melancholic glamour. Although they seem to have been created with no particular regard for style – still to be seen here and there is the adhesive tape with which the newspaper images were attached to the surface –, their cool and cryptic subtlety immediately causes them to be recognized as works by Baldessari.
If there is a recurrent theme in Baldessari's œuvre, then it is his patient approach toward undermining the clichés and romanticized stories which we often uncritically tell ourselves. These clichés include not only our perception of the world which to a large extent is controlled by the media, but also certain characteristics of contemporary art. Baldessari's repudiation of the painterly image has in the meantime become legendary. His Cremation Project from 1970, in which he caused the paintings which he had painted between 1953 and 1966 to be burnt to ashes, numbers among the founding works of Concept Art. But Baldessari freed himself as well from those aspects of conceptuality which had in the meantime become clichés. The storyboards are the result of a long development which, in a certain sense, has brought Baldessari back to the pictorial space of the painter – but in a manner which almost causes this pictorial space to implode. These works are pictures, and at the same time they are not.