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John Baldessari at LACMA

John Baldessari’s work can be seen as a steady progression, starting simply and building upwards. His first works, which he produced in the late 60s, were cocky, tongue-in-cheek, text-based conceptual pieces in the style of Lawrence Weiner, but with less poetry and graphic flair. These pieces relied heavily on funny, ironic phrases like his first piece in the series “A TWO-DIMENSIONAL SURFACE WITHOUT ANY ARTICULATION IS A DEAD EXPERIENCE” (1967). Baldessari then graduated to text and image while still retaining the humor that was at the root of his initial success. There were some Magritte-inspired pieces like a picture of a drinking glass and a block of wood beside the phrase “a glass is a glass” and “wood is wood” and then “but a cigar is a good smoke” next to picture of him smoking.

Lately Baldessari’s work has no text at all, but it’s just as cheeky and as eager to identify the ironies of contemporary art and reduce it to absurdity. His LACMA retrospective “John Baldessari: Pure Beauty,” runs until September 12, 2010.

Baldessari posed on his Ear Couch, flanked by his Nose Sconces.

Baldessari tries out some new hair styles.