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Art review: 'John Baldessari: Pure Beauty' at the Met

Baldessari

Baldessari

"Pelicans Staring at Woman with Nose Bleeding," 1984

“I am making art,” John Baldessari repeatedly declares in his 1971 video installation titled with the same phrase.

That consciousness about the act of creation has been a hallmark of Baldessari’s work, as a current retrospective at the Met shows. The conceptual artist has strived throughout his career, from the ’60s until now, to expand the idea of what it means to make art. By using found photos, film and TV stills and even other artists painting his works, he makes the process of art making about far more than drawing or sculpting.

But what makes his art truly fascinating is that Baldessari is also telling stories. There’s a strong narrative component to his work, whether it’s a series of photographs that follow the random movements of a tossed ball (“Aligning: Balls,” 1972) or a photo collage that invites the viewer to imagine a whole movie from a few abstract images of lovers kissing surrounded by guns (“Kiss/Panic,” 1984).

On a superficial level, the pieces are just plain amusing. But it’s an exhibit that rewards deeper viewer engagement. Baldessari’s work is as thought provoking as it is jokey, and the Met’s extensive look is worth your time.

On view

“John Baldessari: Pure Beauty” is at The Metropolitain Museum of Art through Jan. 9. 1000 Fifth Ave., metmuseum.org.

Also open

“The Artistic Furniture of Charles Rohlfs,” through Jan. 23.

“Katrin Sigurdardottir at the Met,” through March 6.

 

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