Many of us have little idea about the process an artist goes through in making a work: of the struggle, the false starts, the frustrations, the dead ends. It is not necessarily apparent in the end product. An artist’s work can be judged on a single exhibition or piece, which means there is plenty of scope to be misinterpreted or misunderstood – a subject discussed heatedly between this year’s Turner Prize nominees.
Sometimes destruction of the work is an option. Picasso understood this when he said that ‘an image is the sum of its destructions’. In the case of John Baldessari, a literal act of destruction was his response to feeling ‘inundated’ by his own paintings. In 1970 he cremated most of his art done between 1853 and 1966. Cremation Project 1970 became an artwork in itself. A dramatic act, but the artist equates it more benignly with the cycle of life in his conversation with the curator of Tate Modern’s Baldessari retrospective. What would his future work have been like if he had not gone through this cathartic purging? It is a question one might also ask of Michael Landy, who catalogued and destroyed all his possessions in his project Break Down 2001, and who is co-curating an exhibition of Jean Tinguely’s work at Tate Liverpool, which features elements of Tinguely’s Homage to New York, a self-destroying sculpture that ‘committed suicide’ in New York’s Museum of Modern Art sculpture garden in 1960.
Destruction is not just physical. As Bob Colacello recounts of his time with Andy Warhol, the artist was never an easy person to know. His friendship went ‘from love to hate”, because ‘Andy loved to push people’s buttons’. As was explored in Tate modern’s exhibition Pop life: Art in the Material World, Warhol’s persona continues to resonate and fascinate across the generations.
Bice Curiger and Simon Grant
In this issue
Trompe l’œil celebrated as the art of illusion in antiquity.
The author visits Fuyuko Matsui in her Tokyo studio
Folklore, mythology, mysticism and the occult pervade the development of modernism and Surrealism in Britain, especially in relation to the nation’s landscapes and legends.
As the Polish artist undertakes the tenth Unilever Series commission in Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall this autumn, he reveals how family memories and his country’s history have shaped his work.
Four appreciations of John Baldessari, including an artist’s project by Rita McBride and a short fiction story by Frederic Tuten.
The pioneering filmmaker and theorist Harun Farocki has made more than 90 films - ranging from experimental documentaries to large-scale installations, and is only now being recognised in the UK.
Each year the Turner Prize generates media coverage which gives only a fleeting idea of the practice of the artists involved. Tate Etc. brings together this year’s shortlist to find out what they really think of the press and the public
Tate Britain’s autumn exhibition features some of Turner’s best paintings alongside works by old masters and his contemporaries, but how closely did he emulate his artist heroes?
The author co-curates an exhibition of Jean Tinguely’s work for Tate Liverpool.
Contemporary reflections on a work in the Tate collection
The author finds an intriguing nineteenth-century photograph in the Tate Archive
The Los Angeles-based artist John Baldessari (born 1931) made his name as a pioneer of conceptual art in the 1960s with his text and image paintings. After cremating most of the work he had produced between 1953 and 1966, he began to make photographic works, often incorporating film stills, as well as videos, many of which have become icons. At the forefront of his imagery has been an interest in written and visual language, and his status as a teacher is legendary. But where did it all come from? Here, he talks to the curator of Tate Modern’s forthcoming retrospective of his work.