American conceptual artist. After studying art at San Diego State College (1949–57), he began to develop his painting style, soon incorporating letters, words and photographs in his works. By 1966 he was using photographs and text, or simply text, on canvas as in Semi-close-up of Girl by Geranium … (1966–8; Basle, Kstmus.). From 1970 he worked in printmaking, film, video, installation, sculpture and photography. His work is characterised by a consciousness of language evident in his use of puns, semantics based on the structuralism of Claude Lévi-Strauss and by the incorporation of material drawn from popular culture. Both are apparent in Blasted Allegories (1978; New York, Sonnabend Gal.), a series combining polaroids of television images captioned and arranged to suggest an unusual syntax. Baldessari differed from other conceptual artists in his humour and commitment to the visual image. He dramatized the ordinary, although beneath the apparent simplicity of his words and images lie multiple connotations.
John Baldessari (exh. cat., essays by M. Tucker and R. Pincus-Witten, interview N. Drew; New York, MOMA, 1981)