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Collection > John Baldessari >

This Is Not To Be Looked At

1966-1968

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  • Medium

    Acrylic and photo-emulsion on canvas

  • Dimensions

    59 1/4 x 45 1/4 x 1 3/8 in. (150.5 x 114.94 x 3.49 cm)

  • Accession number

    2005.65

  • Object label

    John Baldessari’s This Is Not to Be Looked At consists of a black-and-white photographic print (depicting an issue of Artforum magazine) of a reproduction (on the magazine’s cover) of a painting (minimalist artist Frank Stella’s 1966 Union III), on canvas. Baldessari’s bald-faced appropriation and layering of preexisting images demonstrates his skepticism about artistic originality. He even hired a professional sign painter to write the caption “THIS IS NOT TO BE LOOKED AT.” That phrase paradoxically implies that visual contemplation is neither the best nor only way to engage with art. Baldessari’s defiant refusal to produce beautiful, original images suggests that art can be something other than an optical experience. He proposes instead that what is central is the artist’s concept or idea, irrespective of the artwork’s visual, material form.