John Baldessari’s studio in Venice is a very good indicator of what to expect from the artist living in it. Sleek, modernist homes sit across quaint bungalows, inhabited by a lanky, shaggy man with a laid-back demeanor and a surfboard under his arm. Baldessari might look and act like an old California surfer, but the man, known for his wide range of conceptual art, ranging from video, photos and even word art, is oft called the godfather of conceptual art.
His most recent work, currently on display at SprüthMagers in the City of Angels, is conceptual art in the age of the internet. His most recent work is the eclectic pairing of giant emoji animals, combined with lines from films. This modern word art is quirky, ridiculous, cheesy, and, likeBaldessari’s other works, engrossing and far deeper than their eccentric facade suggest.
One particular piece has a green gecko frozen with its head pointed to the side, as if listening. The line accompanying the lizard is a line attributed to MAYO; “Is there a Courbet for sale here?”. Beyond that, it isn’t clear, as the minimalist piece was clearly envisioned to raise questions rather than give answers.
Another piece has a brown bat in flight, hovering above the line “I look pathetic now but I dream”, which inspires pathos for the small mammal. Included in the collection are a pig, tiger, whale, alligator, rat, and other animals, all of which come with their evocative line.
According to Baldessari, the collection started when he first saw emojis and asked himself how they would look like if they were made really big. He did exactly that, and when he liked the result, the collection came to be.
Baldessari says that emojis are great in part because they look so stupid. But more than that, they represent an idea that he seeks, the evening out of word and imagery, as emojis are defined not by the subjective use of the speaker, but rather but the idea that collective use ascribes to it.
When asked as to his future plans, Baldessari, witty as he is, simply asked people if they had any ideas.
The exhibit is on display until the 9th of December, at SprüthMagers, Los Angeles, courtesy of the Marian Goodman Gallery.