John Baldessari (1931-2020) was a towering figure in the history of contemporary art, a pioneer of Conceptual art from the 1960s onward, and an influential educator in Los Angeles over several decades. An essential figure of the region’s thriving art scene, Baldessari was closely involved at MOCA throughout the museum’s history and he played a central role in its ascent as a world-renowned museum of contemporary art. In his creative genius and many achievements, he will continue to inspire this institution for years to come.
MOCA was honored to organize the first full-scale retrospective of Baldessari’s work in 1990. The milestone exhibition showcased the artist’s original use of photography, text and “found images”—combining imagery and language in ways that challenge viewer perception. Accompanied by a scholarly catalogue, the show traveled to five prominent venues, nationally and internationally.
In 2008, MOCA named its comprehensive collection catalogue after one of the artist’s most striking and enigmatic works, an acrylic and photo-emulsion painting titled This Is Not To Be Looked At (1968), donated to the museum by Joel Wachs. Among the other ten artworks by John Baldessari in MOCA’s collection are important examples of his oeuvre in photography, prints, books, mixed media and collage. Holdings span his long and storied career, from Embed Series: Cigarette Dreams (Raw/Pink/Wit) - A Preliminary Sketch to Wit Blue Humor (1975) to The Overlap Series: Palm Trees and Building (With Vikings) (2001). Baldessari himself gave MOCA a captivating dual image, Two Highrises (With Disruptions)/Two Witnesses (Red and Green) (1990), representative of his signature practice of covering faces with colored dots.
Baldessari was also a generous donor of other artist’s work to the museum’s collection, gifting numerous works beginning in the late-1990s, including key examples by his fellow Conceptualists David Askevold, Ger van Elk, Douglas Huebler, On Kawara, William Leavitt, Sol LeWitt, and Lawrence Weiner, in addition to works by Meg Cranston, Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe, Edward Kienholz, Richard Allen Morris, Matt Mullican, Juliao Sarmento, Kim Schoenstadt, and Laura Stein.
MOCA has an extraordinary legacy of artist relationships. John Baldessari served on the Board of Trustees for 18 years, from 2000-2012 and from 2014-2020. He also participated on the Acquisitions and Collections Committee, overseeing the growth and diversification of MOCA’s greatest asset. MOCA proudly honored Baldessari at its 2015 Gala in recognition for his remarkable leadership and deep community influence.
Jan 2, 2020
MOCA Remembers John Baldessari
John Baldessari (1931-2020) was a towering figure in the history of contemporary art, a pioneer of Conceptual art from the 1960s onward, and an influential educator in Los Angeles over several decades.