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Men Swallowing Swords, Men Blowing Out Candles

October 2, 2009


On the occasion of his major retrospective at Tate Modern in London, we present an homage to, meditation on, conversation with and analysis of the multi-faceted, 50-year career of John Baldessari by Benjamin Weissman


Fissures (Orange) and Ribbons (Orange, Blue): With Multiple Figures (Red, Green, Yellow), Plus Single Figure (Yellow) in Harness (Violet) and Balloons (Violet, Red, Yellow, Grey) (detail, 2004)

Dumpster Diving

Once upon a time the young John Baldessari was so desperate for images that he prowled back alleys hunting for discarded photographs. He’d climb into garbage bins (diving head first was never the recommended technique) and rummage around, finding curious rejected pictures of odd male bowlers (something about what their hands revealed in the follow-through) or stiff ceremonial group portraits of beaming Caucasians with faces revealing their true jack-o-lantern selves, or a stack of dead bodies, or – simply and remarkably – a photograph of a standing man in a black suit which would eventually be cropped and tilted on its side and positioned at the bottom of a horizontal stack of other men – soldiers, cowboys, etc. – all of whom appear to have been shot dead in the street. The solitary living man in the black suit is on the bottom tier, facing up.

Read more at Frieze Magazine here.

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