Continuing through April 4, 2020
Ubiquitously and by rote the art world continues to classify the late John Baldessari as among the key originators of conceptual art, even though it’s far too confining a modifier to fully frame and codify the range and prolific output of this beloved Southern California artist and teacher. Indeed, Baldessari, who died at 89 this past January, worked prolifically, experimentally and with interdisciplinary rigor across a myriad of fine art genres. These included photography, film, video, installation, sculpture, concrete poetry, performance art and printmaking. All of the prints which fill and animate the four galleries here display the same kind of effortless mastery of materials, protean and shape-shifting geometric composition and sophisticated application of structuralism, semiotics and Wittgenstein-based linguistics that characterizes and stamps Baldessari’s entire oeuvre.
Thoughtful and tasteful, “Wrong is Right” presents a condensed survey of Baldessari’s printmaking work made at a number of prestigious L.A-based presses over the past fifty years. Along with the textured and sculptural prints Baldessari produced at Mixografia itself, other esteemed Los Angeles printers lending work to the show include Cirrus Editions, Edition Jacob Samuel, El Nopal Press, Gemini GEL, as well as Multi Editions, which the artist and his assistants established together. The exhibition also features excerpts from Baldessari’s important video work of the 1970s, influenced as it was by European Dada, Film Noir and French New Wave Cinema.
Baldessari’s 1970 “Cremation Project,” in which the artist burned all of his existing paintings, turned out to be a seminal work of conceptual art (the canvases’ ashes were subsequently molded into cookies), and turned him decisively in that direction for the rest of his career. That said, we are nevertheless drawn to the painterly lines, bright primary and secondary colors and sensuous surfaces of these prints. In a thoroughly unassuming fashion, “Wrong is Right” celebrates and lauds the life and work of a man who, with an uncompromising sense of adventure and a fierce determination, devoted his life to the act of thinking art into being.