Portrait: Artist's Identity Hidden With Various Hats

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Portrait: Artist's Identity Hidden With Various Hats

1974
Photographs
(Seven) black-and-white photographs mounted on board
Image: 13 7/8 x 11 in. (35.24 x 27.94 cm) each
Gift of the 2010 Collectors Committee (M.2010.48)
Not currently on public view

Curator Notes

John Baldessari is one of the most influential American artists working today....
John Baldessari is one of the most influential American artists working today. His text and image paintings from the mid-1960s are widely recognized as among the earliest examples of conceptual art, while his 1980s photo compositions derived from film stills rank as pivotal to the development of appropriation art and other practices that address the social and cultural impact of mass culture. Lesser-known is Baldessari's highly innovative and experimental work of the 1970s that heralded the now widespread conceptual use of photography and established the medium as a viable (and indeed most relevant) mode of visual expression in media-saturated contemporary culture. In Portrait: Artist's Identity Hidden with Various Hats, the artist not only questions the conventional aim of portraiture to portray a particular individual (by, in his characteristically playful way, shielding his face not once but seven times), but also initiates a formal strategy of concealment (or selective revealing) that Baldessari has continued to employ throughout his career (most famously with his signature colored "dots" employed to block out people's faces and thus their identities in found imagery). Portrait also speaks directly to Baldessari's lifelong interest in film, and especially the films of Buster Keaton - most notably the famous hat-choosing sequence in Keaton's Steamboat Bill, Jr. Executed in 1974, Portrait corresponds with the artist's early years of teaching at CalArts where, as a founding faculty member, he helped establish the school's reputation as one of the best in the nation. In fact, Baldessari's commitment to living, working, and teaching in Los Angeles in the last forty years has greatly contributed to the city's current status as a center for contemporary art practice. (Leslie Jones, Associate Curator Prints and Drawings, 2010)
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