John Baldessari: Fun and Simple

Things often come in twos for John Baldessari.  Those who know the famed artist’s expansive body of work will recognize how the relationship between vantage points, the use of multiple canvases, and the application of two or more elements are characteristic of his process.  This theme is an interesting one for City View Garage, a new mixed-use building, which is part parking garage and part office and retail space.  Wedged between interstate 95 and 195, City View is enveloped in a seemingly endless arrangement of tessellated metallics, while two of Baldessari’s monumental images stand-out on its façade like billboards along the highway. The artwork commissioned by developer Craig Robins may cause commuters to wonder if the artist’s works are an ad campaign for the revitalized neighborhood or a contemporary art installation; further, how will this distinction matter?

John Baldessari's Fun (Part One) - City View Garage

John Baldessari's Fun (Part One)

Baldessari’s Fun (Part One) and Fun (Part Two) were printed on perforated metal and cover perpendicular sides of the City View Garage.  Known for synthesizing photography, film, text and found images, the artist used production stills (photos taken from behind the scenes of a film shoot) to portray a deco-styled woman in her bathing suit, playtime in the water, and the simple pleasures of what feels like summer.  As Miami works toward redefining itself as a place of higher culture, it’s amusing that Baldessari – one of today’s most influential conceptual artists – would choose such a carefree beach scene for a very progressive-looking structure in the city.  This is the satire and simplicity that is Baldessari, and a welcome reminder not to take things too seriously.

John Baldessari Fun (Part Two) City View Garage

John Baldessari's Fun (Part Two)

There’s also the mystery of exactly where Baldessari’s “found” images come from and how they’ve been pieced together into these cohesive tableaus.  In Fun (Part Two), for example, the backdrop of the beach looks like it’s been painted, while the female subject could easily belong to a film still.  The eerie juxtaposition of mediums begs the question of origin: do we really know where this content comes from? Or perhaps: if we don’t know where this comes from, do we know where it’s going? An excellent query for the Miami Design District, which more than ever, is exploring and challenging notions of the Magic City aesthetic – one that’s not all beaches and bikinis.

Born in California in 1931, Baldessari has been featured in more than 180 solo exhibitions and 1000 group exhibitions in the U.S. and Europe.  He has received several honorary doctorates, and has participated in Documenta (1982, 1978); the Venice Biennale (2003, 1997); and in seven Whitney Biennial exhibitions.  Major retrospectives have appeared at Tate Modern, London; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; and Los Angeles County Museum of Art.  Baldessari lives and works in Santa Monica, California.