John Baldessari, Umbrella (Orange): With Figure and Ball (Blue, Green), 2004, Photo: Deutsche Guggenheim, © 2004 John Baldessari
Exhibition | 22.02.2005 - 20.04.2005

John Baldessari

(Somewhere Between Almost Right and Not Quite (With Orange)
This is the tenth time that the Neues Museum Weserburg Bremen is presenting works from the Deutsche Bank Collection: Somewhere Between Almost Right and Not Quite (With Orange) comprises works by the American artist John Baldessari. This cycle was commissioned by the Deutsche Guggenheim in Berlin, a joint venture between the Deutsche Bank and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation.

John Baldessari became known in the sixties for works in which he combined material from the mass media, as did Pop artists, with writing, as did Conceptual artists. He very early on began integrating images and texts from the advertising and film industries into his pictures. Baldessari contrasted, cut, and edited the image material in combination with texts. His montages out of photography and writing time and again counter the narrative associations taken from the individual scenes and afford a broader spectrum of interpretations. The multilayered, often humorous compositions can be interpreted in different ways and underscore how relative meaning can be.

In the seventies, Baldessari switched to incorporating photos taken by others into his projects: “Found images appealed to me because they were not considered art, but simple photographic products. I poked around in the garbage cans of photo equipment stores.” Because still, publicity, and press photos were so inexpensive, within a very short time he had an extensive archive.

When Baldessari recognized how individual images from a single film could suggest entire narrative sequences, he used them more and more often. Found images that both belonged together and did not were arranged in cycles, sometimes in the form of a grid, others in linear or free structures, but always according to a fixed principle of order.

After 1980, Baldessari preferred processing the found image material without adding text. By limiting himself to photo cycles without text he proved that pure images as well as the earlier image-text montages were capable of communicating narrative contents. He later switched to covering the faces on photos with spots of paint. While the image space becomes flat, the deceptive effect of the scene becomes more apparent. By disguising the face (or later, a part of the body), individuality is negated and an identifiable subject is transformed into a non-identifiable object. The white stickers in the first attempts were later replaced by colored ones. A color code developed by the artist opens up further levels of interpretation: red signals danger, green stands for safety, and so on.

To this day, playing with pop culture and criticizing it are the focus of his successful artistic work, over the course of which the format of his pictures became larger and larger and the forcefulness more intense. His new, large-format series Somewhere Between Almost Right and Not Quite (With Orange) for the Deutsche Guggenheim deals with the phenomenon of the “space in between.” Orange, the color “between” yellow and red, dominates this project. Baldessari exhausts the contradictions: the pictures tell of harmony and conflict, safety and danger, and do not keep quiet about the extreme that lies between both—the disturbing existence of the “space in between.” The still photos have been removed from time and space. Liberated from their original screenplay, under Baldessari’s direction they assume new form. His visual montage technique is meant to illustrate that the meaning of an image develops over the course of a dialogue and is not inherent in the work.

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