“WHAT THE …??” . . . This is surely what many will be muttering as they view John Baldessari: pure beauty, arguably the weirdest and most compelling museum retrospective of the summer, not to mention the most extensive exhibition of the artist's work ever mounted. With my peepers popped and my jaw ajar, I wandered from room to room, as exhilarated and mesmerized as a kid explorer from planet Kxelnerp discovering Earth for the very first time. There are more than 150 works in this multimedia show, each more intriguing and enigmatic than the next. Baldessari plays with reality, twisting it, stretching it, turning it upside down. He fiddles with the concept of narrative. Deconstructs and reconstructs. Art — the best of it — shows you things you've never seen before, or shows you things you have seen before, but in a unique, often challenging way. A few of the works here: Pelicans Staring at Woman With Nose Bleeding, another called Portrait: Artist's Identity Hidden With Various Hats. There's Lizards to Pianist and Tips for Artists Who Want to Sell. There's Cremation Project. I'm not going to pretend I understand what Baldessari is attempting to convey with every piece, but I was captivated by it all — the works I “got” and the ones I didn't. What is art? You come to realize with this exhibition that it is not the answer to that question that matters, but rather the question itself. And it is being asked here in a manner that is absurd, strange, ironic, and often wryly funny.

Wednesdays. Starts: June 30. Continues through Sept. 12, 2010

LA Weekly