John Baldessari  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

John Anthony Baldessari (June 17, 1931 – January 2, 2020) was an American artist known for his work featuring found photography and appropriated images.

He created thousands of works which demonstrate—and, in many cases, combine—the narrative potential of images and the associative power of language within the boundaries of the work of art.

Typical in that category is Painting for Kubler (1967–68) which paraphrased some theses from art historian George Kubler's book The Shape of Time (1962).

"The guy who puts dots over peoples faces."

Circular adhesive dots covering up the faces of photographed and painted portraits are a prevailing motif in Baldessari's work from the mid-1980s onward. The artist himself suspected that, despite the broad array of approaches he's taken over the course of his career, he will be best remembered as "the guy who puts dots over peoples faces." Examples of the "dot portraits" would include—for example—Bloody Sunday (1987) or Stonehenge with Two Persons (2005), though these works are numerous and it is difficult to identify an exemplar. The dots in these paintings evoke brightly colored price-stickers sometimes seen at garage sales, thrift stores or placed on retail items during a sale. Indeed, these stickers appear to have been the inspiration for the method. Describing his initial intuitive leap in this direction, Baldessari said, "I just had these price stickers I was using for something else, in some graphic way and I put them on all the faces and I just felt like it leveled the playing field." The dot-faced works may sometimes be described as paintings, collages, or may be released as print editions.

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