In 1970 in an infamous act of provocation and incineration, Baldessari set fire to over one hundred of his canvases produced between 1953 and 1966, folding the charred remains into cookie batter and stowing a separate portion inside a book-shaped urn that became a fixture on his studio shelf. The Cremation Project marked the formal beginning of a multifaceted practice; one that embraced a wide range of media including video, film, photography, sculpture, prints, and installations. As in The Overlap Series, many of Baldessari’s photographic works often incorporate film stills. Speaking of his use of appropriated photography, Baldessari comments, “I was trying to be artless. I thought the more I’m involved with art, the more artful I’m becoming, so how do I get myself out of that? Well, have other people do things for me, or just use other people’s imaging” (John Baldessari cited in: Jessica Morgan, ‘Somebody to talk to: John Baldessari’, Tate Etc, 1 September 2009, online). Baldessari’s incorporation of commercial media and film stills allowed him to explore new dimensions of free association, probing the deeper subtleties of absurdity and Surrealism with a wicked sense of humour and identifying him as one of the most original voices of our time.
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