The highly influential California artist and teacher, John Baldessari, was an obsessive collector of images from magazines, newspapers, and film stills. He recombined these images to create fascinating compositions whose narratives the artist wanted the viewer to interpret. Baldessari would often obscure, with circles of primary colors, certain key elements of the narrative making interpretation more difficult. Meaning becomes secondary in Baldessari’s work. What matters most is how the artist could take disparate elements and turn them into art that is formally balanced and pleasing to the eye. His work, especially when presented in an exhibition like California Dreaming, is just fun to look at. Trying to puzzle out the meaning is icing on the cake.
The exhibition includes important loans from collections in San Antonio and Austin as well as a recently acquired Baldessari titled French Horn Player (With Three Contexts—One Uncoded) of 1994. This is the first time this work has been on public view at the McNay.
John Baldessari: California Dreaming is organized for the McNay Art Museum by Lyle W. Williams, Curator of Prints and Drawings, Curator of Modern Art.