“I realized there was this whole image bank that people carried around with them, and I could manipulate it just by suggestions and distortions. Of course they were all about kissing and guns.” –John Baldessari

In his impressive and influential oeuvre spanning almost six decades, John Baldessari consistently exposed the complex and ambiguous narrative potential of images. Drawing from a carefully collected pool of visual signs, he explored how meaning is not necessarily an inherent quality of an image, but is created, deconstructed or obscured when taken out of context, altered or combined with other images or words.

 

John Baldessari – The Story Underneath – New York

John Baldessari
Kiss, Hair, Hands (Maquette), 1986
Black-and-white photographs and acrylic on board
73.7 × 50.8 cm
29 × 20 inches

Details
John Baldessari – The Story Underneath – New York

John Baldessari
Kiss, Hair, Hands (Maquette), 1986
Black-and-white photographs and acrylic on board
73.7 × 50.8 cm
29 × 20 inches

Details
icon_fullscreen
1 of 1
John Baldessari – The Story Underneath – New York

 

The first exhibition of the artist’s maquettes in over a decade, The Story Underneath assembles over 75 collages, photographs, film stills and drawings dating from the early 1980s to the early 2000s, all selected from a large body of rarely seen work.

John Baldessari – The Story Underneath – New York

John Baldessari
(Maquette), ca. 1980–92
Photocopy and wax pencil on paper
27.9 × 21.6 cm
11 × 8 1/2 inches

Details
John Baldessari – The Story Underneath – New York

John Baldessari
(Maquette), ca. 1980–92
Photocopy and wax pencil on paper
27.9 × 21.6 cm
11 × 8 1/2 inches

Details
icon_fullscreen
1 of 1

The first exhibition of the artist’s maquettes in over a decade, The Story Underneath assembles over 75 collages, photographs, film stills and drawings dating from the early 1980s to the early 2000s, all selected from a large body of rarely seen work.

John Baldessari – The Story Underneath – New York

John Baldessari
Hope (Blue) Supported by a Bed of Oranges (Life): Amid a Context of Allusions (Maquette), 1991
Film still photograph, acetate, sticker and wax pencil
27.9 × 35.6 cm
11 × 14 inches

Details
John Baldessari – The Story Underneath – New York

John Baldessari
Hope (Blue) Supported by a Bed of Oranges (Life): Amid a Context of Allusions (Maquette), 1991
Film still photograph, acetate, sticker and wax pencil
27.9 × 35.6 cm
11 × 14 inches

Details
icon_fullscreen
1 of 1
John Baldessari – The Story Underneath – New York

John Baldessari
Hope (Blue) Supported by a Bed of Oranges (Life): Amid a Context of Allusions (Maquette), 1991
Film still photograph, acetate, sticker and wax pencil
27.9 × 35.6 cm
11 × 14 inches

Details
John Baldessari – The Story Underneath – New York

John Baldessari
Hope (Blue) Supported by a Bed of Oranges (Life): Amid a Context of Allusions (Maquette), 1991
Film still photograph, acetate, sticker and wax pencil
27.9 × 35.6 cm
11 × 14 inches

Details
icon_fullscreen
1 of 1

“The world is not the external world as we know it. I use images from the television, from movies, from video, from other material.”–John Baldessari

John Baldessari – The Story Underneath – New York

John Baldessari
The Lamp Series – Blind Spot (Used), 1994
Photograph, acrylic and wax pencil on museum board
26.7 × 45.7 cm
10 1/2 × 18 inches

Reflecting the artist’s physical manipulations of his source material and the process of his pictorial reinventions, these works capture the heightened moment of transformation when commonplace images turn into artworks by Baldessari.

Details
John Baldessari – The Story Underneath – New York

John Baldessari
The Lamp Series – Blind Spot (Used), 1994
Photograph, acrylic and wax pencil on museum board
26.7 × 45.7 cm
10 1/2 × 18 inches

Details
icon_fullscreen
1 of 1

Reflecting the artist’s physical manipulations of his source material and the process of his pictorial reinventions, these works capture the heightened moment of transformation when commonplace images turn into artworks by Baldessari.

John Baldessari – The Story Underneath – New York

John Baldessari, 1982
© John Baldessari 1982. Courtesy the Estate of John Baldessari © 2022

 

Created as preparatory works and sketches for his large-scale pieces, the artist’s maquettes grant extraordinary insight into his particular way of seeing and composing.

John Baldessari – The Story Underneath – New York

John Baldessari
Untitled (Maquette), 1994
Photocopies, acetate, oil pastel, paint, sticker and tape on paper
48.6 × 35.9 cm
19 1/8 × 14 1/8 inches

Details
John Baldessari – The Story Underneath – New York

John Baldessari
Untitled (Maquette), 1994
Photocopies, acetate, oil pastel, paint, sticker and tape on paper
48.6 × 35.9 cm
19 1/8 × 14 1/8 inches

Details
icon_fullscreen
1 of 1

Created as preparatory works and sketches for his large-scale pieces, the artist’s maquettes grant extraordinary insight into his particular way of seeing and composing.

John Baldessari – The Story Underneath – New York

John Baldessari
(Maquette), ca. 1980–92
Photocopies, sticker, tape and colored pencil on graph paper
58.7 × 43.5 cm
23 1/8 × 17 1/8 inches

Many of these works on paper reveal the original sources—film stills, lobby cards, found photographs—of the vast collection from which he drew inspiration, selected, extracted, removed, cut, reassembled and combined elements to create his works. Others illuminate Baldessari’s art of juxtaposition and combination of images and words.

Details
John Baldessari – The Story Underneath – New York

John Baldessari
(Maquette), ca. 1980–92
Photocopies, sticker, tape and colored pencil on graph paper
58.7 × 43.5 cm
23 1/8 × 17 1/8 inches

Details
icon_fullscreen
1 of 1

Many of these works on paper reveal the original sources—film stills, lobby cards, found photographs—of the vast collection from which he drew inspiration, selected, extracted, removed, cut, reassembled and combined elements to create his works. Others illuminate Baldessari’s art of juxtaposition and combination of images and words.

Baldessari considered his maquettes to be artworks themselves, and they reflect how he anticipated the manifold ways in which we deal with and manipulate images today.

John Baldessari – The Story Underneath – New York

John Baldessari
Vertical Series: Straight. (Maquette)., 2003
Archival digital print on graph paper
55.9 × 43.2 cm
22 × 17 inches

John Baldessari – The Story Underneath – New York

John Baldessari
Horizontal Series: Separate. (Maquette)., 2003
Archival digital print, text, graphite and tape on graph paper
43.2 × 55.9 cm
17 × 22 inches

Details
John Baldessari – The Story Underneath – New York

John Baldessari
Vertical Series: Straight. (Maquette)., 2003
Archival digital print on graph paper
55.9 × 43.2 cm
22 × 17 inches

John Baldessari – The Story Underneath – New York

John Baldessari
Horizontal Series: Separate. (Maquette)., 2003
Archival digital print, text, graphite and tape on graph paper
43.2 × 55.9 cm
17 × 22 inches

Details
icon_fullscreen
1 of 2

Baldessari considered his maquettes to be artworks themselves, and they reflect how he anticipated the manifold ways in which we deal with and manipulate images today.

John Baldessari – The Story Underneath – New York

John Baldessari
(Maquette), ca. 1980–92
Film still photograph, acetate, gouache and wax pencil
27.9 × 35.6 cm
11 × 14 inches

John Baldessari – The Story Underneath – New York

John Baldessari
Hope (Blue) Supported by a Bed of Oranges (Life): Amid a Context of Allusions (Maquette), 1991
Film still photograph, acetate and wax pencil
27.9 × 35.6 cm
11 × 14 inches

The Story Underneath presents several of the dominant formal interventions and artistic strategies that Baldessari employed throughout his career. Some maquettes in the exhibition consist of singular film stills and lobby cards, drawn on directly with crayon, outlining elements which were to be cropped and obscured with paint in the finished works.

Details
John Baldessari – The Story Underneath – New York

John Baldessari
(Maquette), ca. 1980–92
Film still photograph, acetate, gouache and wax pencil
27.9 × 35.6 cm
11 × 14 inches

John Baldessari – The Story Underneath – New York

John Baldessari
Hope (Blue) Supported by a Bed of Oranges (Life): Amid a Context of Allusions (Maquette), 1991
Film still photograph, acetate and wax pencil
27.9 × 35.6 cm
11 × 14 inches

Details
icon_fullscreen
1 of 2

The Story Underneath presents several of the dominant formal interventions and artistic strategies that Baldessari employed throughout his career. Some maquettes in the exhibition consist of singular film stills and lobby cards, drawn on directly with crayon, outlining elements which were to be cropped and obscured with paint in the finished works.

John Baldessari – The Story Underneath – New York

 

“What I’m looking at in a photograph is usually the stuff that’s marginal . . . It’s the stuff you see out of the corner of your eye, rather than what you’d normally focus on.” –John Baldessari

John Baldessari – The Story Underneath – New York

John Baldessari
Two People (Front View) and Helicopter/
Two People (Side View) with Art (Maquette)
, 1990
Film still photograph, acetate, gouache and wax pencil
27.9 × 35.6 cm
11 × 14 inches

Details
John Baldessari – The Story Underneath – New York

John Baldessari
Two People (Front View) and Helicopter/
Two People (Side View) with Art (Maquette)
, 1990
Film still photograph, acetate, gouache and wax pencil
27.9 × 35.6 cm
11 × 14 inches

Details
icon_fullscreen
1 of 1
John Baldessari – The Story Underneath – New York

John Baldessari
Two People (Front View) and Helicopter/
Two People (Side View) with Art (Maquette)
, 1990
Film still photograph, acetate, gouache and wax pencil
27.9 × 35.6 cm
11 × 14 inches

Details
John Baldessari – The Story Underneath – New York

John Baldessari
Two People (Front View) and Helicopter/
Two People (Side View) with Art (Maquette)
, 1990
Film still photograph, acetate, gouache and wax pencil
27.9 × 35.6 cm
11 × 14 inches

Details
icon_fullscreen
1 of 1

Mostly assembled from photocopies of the photographic sources, these maquettes reveal the copy machine as an essential tool in Baldessari’s practice, easily replicated, replaced or taped onto each other to maximize compositional possibilities.

John Baldessari – The Story Underneath – New York

John Baldessari
Two Histories (With Progress), ca. 1980–92
Photocopies, wax pencil, tape and graphite on graph paper
23.2 × 41.9 cm
9 1/8 × 16 1/2 inches

John Baldessari – The Story Underneath – New York

John Baldessari
Untitled VI (Maquette), 1991
Photocopies, wax pencil and tape on graph paper
43.2 × 55.9 cm
17 × 22 inches

John Baldessari – The Story Underneath – New York

John Baldessari
Untitled (Maquette), 1989
Photocopies, wax pencil and tape on graph paper
27.9 × 25.4 cm
11 × 10 inches

Details
John Baldessari – The Story Underneath – New York

John Baldessari
Two Histories (With Progress), ca. 1980–92
Photocopies, wax pencil, tape and graphite on graph paper
23.2 × 41.9 cm
9 1/8 × 16 1/2 inches

John Baldessari – The Story Underneath – New York

John Baldessari
Untitled VI (Maquette), 1991
Photocopies, wax pencil and tape on graph paper
43.2 × 55.9 cm
17 × 22 inches

John Baldessari – The Story Underneath – New York

John Baldessari
Untitled (Maquette), 1989
Photocopies, wax pencil and tape on graph paper
27.9 × 25.4 cm
11 × 10 inches

Details
icon_fullscreen
1 of 3

Mostly assembled from photocopies of the photographic sources, these maquettes reveal the copy machine as an essential tool in Baldessari’s practice, easily replicated, replaced or taped onto each other to maximize compositional possibilities.

John Baldessari – The Story Underneath – New York

 

A final section of the exhibition examines another cornerstone in Baldessari’s practice: the art of removal. Covering faces with dots or painting over whole figures, he made subjects interchangeable and directed attention toward the surrounding contexts in which they appear.

 

John Baldessari – The Story Underneath – New York

John Baldessari
Removal Series: Two Partial Figures (With Dog). Maquette., 1995
Wax pencil, gouache, and acetate mounted on graph paper
55.2 × 43.2 cm
21 3/4 × 17 inches

John Baldessari – The Story Underneath – New York

John Baldessari
Removal Series: Two Partial Figures (Two Heads) with Rectangle. Maquette., 1995
Wax pencil, gouache, acetate and paper mounted on graph paper
55.6 × 42.9 cm
21 7/8 × 16 7/8 inches

Details
John Baldessari – The Story Underneath – New York

John Baldessari
Removal Series: Two Partial Figures (With Dog). Maquette., 1995
Wax pencil, gouache, and acetate mounted on graph paper
55.2 × 43.2 cm
21 3/4 × 17 inches

John Baldessari – The Story Underneath – New York

John Baldessari
Removal Series: Two Partial Figures (Two Heads) with Rectangle. Maquette., 1995
Wax pencil, gouache, acetate and paper mounted on graph paper
55.6 × 42.9 cm
21 7/8 × 16 7/8 inches

Details
icon_fullscreen
1 of 2
John Baldessari – The Story Underneath – New York

All installation views: Genevieve Hanson

 

As The Story Underneath makes clear, the maquettes were a vital ground for Baldessari, where he could experiment with the images at hand, test the limits of narrative, and explore various alternatives on the way to his final celebrated works of art.

On the occasion of the exhibition, Sprüth Magers will publish a catalogue with full color illustrations and an essay by Nana Bahlmann.

 

John Baldessari – The Story Underneath – New York

John Baldessari
Hope (Blue) Supported by a Bed of Oranges (Life): Amid a Context of Allusions (Maquette), 1991
Color photographs, gouache, wax pencil, stickers and tape on graph paper
69.9 × 137.8 cm
27 1/2 × 54 1/4 inches

Details
John Baldessari – The Story Underneath – New York

John Baldessari
Hope (Blue) Supported by a Bed of Oranges (Life): Amid a Context of Allusions (Maquette), 1991
Color photographs, gouache, wax pencil, stickers and tape on graph paper
69.9 × 137.8 cm
27 1/2 × 54 1/4 inches

Details
icon_fullscreen
1 of 1