John Baldessari: Artist Portrait

John Baldessari

Born 1931.

Works by John Baldessari at Sotheby's

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John Baldessari Biography

American Conceptual artist John Baldessari was born in National City, California, in 1931, and grew up in the midst of the Great Depression. At age eighteen, he enrolled at San Diego State University (previously San Diego State College), earning both his BA in art education 1953 and his MA in painting in 1957. After a professor of the University took leave for an illness, Baldessari served as a substitute for one term. His skill as a teacher led him to teach sporadically for the next several years, while experimenting with his own art and practice. He joined the faculty of the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, California, from 1970 to 1988, before going on to teach at the University of California at Los Angeles from 1996–2007. Some of his most notable students include Eric Fischl, Tony Oursler and David Salle.

Baldessari has come to be recognized as a leading pioneer of Conceptual art, and despite the intellectualism and seriousness often associated with the practice, Baldessari often includes wit and humor within his work. One of his most recognized formats is canvases with painted text, a mode he began employing in the 1960s, which bend the definition and appreciation both of painting and writing. His preoccupation with language has largely saturated his oeuvre, which spans across a number of mediums including video, sculpture and installation.

Baldessari has been the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the 2009 Venice Biennale, and United States President Barack Obama presented him with the National Medal of Arts in 2015. He has been the subject of many retrospectives, the first of which was in 1981 at the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, and, most recently, in 2010 at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (and travelled to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York). He continues to live and work today in Santa Monica, California.

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