Gallery Hopping: John Baldessari Takes on Joan Miró at Marian Goodman

The conceptualist pairs film stills with Miró paintings and affirmative words.

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John Baldessari at Marian Goodman
John Baldessari, Miró and Life in General: Incumbent, (2016). Image courtesy Marian Goodman Gallery.
John Baldessari at Marian Goodman
John Baldessari, Miró and Life in General: Reliable, (2016). Image courtesy the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York, Paris & London. Copyright John Baldessari.
John Baldessari at Marian Goodman
Installation view of "Miro and Life in General." Photo by Thierry Bal, courtesy the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York, Paris & London. Copyright John Baldessari.
John Baldessari at Marian Goodman
John Baldessari, Miró and Life in General: Necessary, (2016). Image courtesy the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York, Paris & London. Copyright John Baldessari.
John Baldessari at Marian Goodman
Installation view of "Miro and Life in General." Photo by Thierry Bal, courtesy the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York, Paris & London. Copyright John Baldessari.
John Baldessari at Marian Goodman
John Baldessari, Miró and Life in General: True, (2016).Image courtesy the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York, Paris & London. Copyright John Baldessari.
John Baldessari at Marian Goodman
Installation view of "Miro and Life in General." Photo by Thierry Bal, courtesy the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York, Paris & London. Copyright John Baldessari.
John Baldessari at Marian Goodman
John Baldessari, Miró and Life in General: Apropos, (2016). Image Installation view of "Miro and Life in General." Image courtesy the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York, Paris & London. Copyright John Baldessari.

California conceptualist John Baldessari has a series of new works on view at London’s Marian Goodman Gallery, in an exhibition titled “Miró and Life in General.”

The 11 canvases, injket prints with acrylic paint, represent the artist’s latest dive into the history of painting—this time probing the colorful abstract works of Spanish Modernist Joan Miró—that doesn’t forego his signature juxtapositioning of text and image.

Each work pairs a detail of a Miró with a black-and-white still from unnamed Hollywood films; as the title of the show implies, the film stills are stand-ins for “life in general.” They are manipulated with pops of colors that match the appropriated bits of paintings, in order to prompt the viewer to make associations between the two previously unrelated images.

Underneath each of the formulaic works, Baldessari has put one word in capital letters, all implying affirmative associations: “reliable,” “pertinent,” “incumbent,” “suitable,” “unfailing,” “relevant,” “right.”

Against figurative scenes of life are abstract shapes of painting, and sometimes the two are reversed by artistic intervention. “Reliable,” for example, crops a configuration of Miró shapes to center on what could be a handlebar mustache, with Baldessari painting two dots on a shape above, that turn the composition into a cartoon face. The film still above captures a man with one foot on a bench, on which a woman sits, surrounded by foliage. His figure is blotted out in white, while a tree in the background is colored green—the two figures’ shapes make sense in context, but have become painterly abstractions themselves.

The works are dichotomous in some ways; the “high” versus “low” arts of painting and cinema; black and white versus color images. But ultimately, they are unified, and do what Baldessari does best: point, orchestrate, and choreograph seemingly unrelated elements into new wholes.

At the tail end of the exhibition, from February 18 to 25, the gallery will host a pop-up shop with t-shirts, prints, objects, and ephemera by the artist, as well as monographs of his work.

John Baldessari, “Miró and Life in General,” is on view at Marian Goodman Gallery in London until February 25, 2017.


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