John Baldessari, the intrepid Californian artist who helped lead a movement known as Conceptualism, which placed an emphasis on ideas over images, has died at 88. A cause of death was not immediately available.
Baldessari was one of many artists during the 1960s who helped shift art history by making use of photography and text. His drily funny artworks analyzed—and, in some cases, mocked—the very things that had long been prized in an artwork by historians, critics, and collectors: formal excellence, painterly beauty, and visual stimulation.
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Baldessari’s pioneering work from the 1960s and ’70s could be considered art about art, and it became massively influential for generations of artists to come. Its reliance on deliberately amateurish photography helped destabilize traditional notions about what could be classified as high art, and its frequent use of droll text highlighted how tenuous the relationship between a picture and the ideas accompanying it could be.
A longtime educator at two Califonia art schools—the California Institute of Arts (also known as CalArts for short) and the University of California Los Angeles—Baldessari and his work inspired multitudes of artists working on the West Coast and far beyond. His pioneering artworks earned him accolades such as the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the 2009 Venice Biennale in Italy; a building at CalArts currently bears his name. His work has been the subject of numerous retrospectives, including one recently titled “Pure Beauty” that first opened at Tate Modern in London in 2009.
A full obituary will follow.