By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
The film is also an exquisite structuralist unraveling of the hypothetical 3-D space that opens out behind the flat surface of the picture plane (or did until that commie Malevich upset the applecart). Inside Jobs deserves to be seen — as it has elsewhere but not at LACMA — as a wall-filling video installation in a dedicated gallery.
Of course, Baldessari's art became wall-filling soon enough. From the early '80s his expansive, market-friendly semiotic bricollages — appropriated fragments of movie stills, advertisements, news photos and found snapshots arranged in intricate syntactical ballets and punctuated by areas of bright solid colors, metastasized to monumental proportions. The disappointment of some of his constituency, engendered by this shift toward the decorative side, was further compounded by the artist's retreat from the overt cleverness and irreverence of his '70s work.
In their stead, Baldessari deployed a system of symbolic punning that privileged pictographic literacy over verbal, while retaining his radical fixation on customized syntactical modifications. How are things ordered in order to make sense? If that design is inverted, does the resulting order still make sense? Does form follow function? What if it doesn't? Can it be rendered in archival plastic? Call it Kustom Konceptual Kulture — and it's served to deliver Baldessari's points for the subsequent three decades (including "Sediment" — his latest exhibit at Margo Leavin Gallery, which closed last week), through several deaths and rebirths of both painting and conceptual art, and maybe into a new currency as a back-to-basics semiotic syllabus for the next generation.
Kids these days, what's with them? Simultaneous visual and verbal illiterates constantly inundated by an exponentially complexifying visual and verbal sensorium. Hedonists alienated from their bodies and most of their senses — the audiovisual stream narrowed to white-hot high-pressure jet; like a sandblaster. Yet they can navigate it, somehow. Baldessari's bittersweet romance with pictures and words cuts to the quick of human perception. And his work may still suggest a way forward: Sit and spin. From the empty hub of communication, all data are decoration. It is a digital revolution of another entire order; profoundly anti-authoritarian but rhizomatically complicit, and constantly searching for a way out. Or in. Baldessari's prescription? When you paint yourself into a corner, simply open the door and step outside.JOHN BALDESSARI: PURE BEAUTY | LACMA | 5905 Wilshire Blvd., L.A. | Through Sept. 12