John Baldessari and Catherine Opie
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art seems to be experiencing a Renaissance in photographic exploration and celebration. Undoubtedly, it comes after the hiring of a new curator of Photography, Britt Salvesen, who is working alongside associate curator, Edward Robinson, and the result is exciting. Last year, LACMA showcased a terrific Self-Portrait exhibition that flanked The New Topographics, a seminal exhibition that LACMA revisited thirty five years later. And this summer two more terrific exhibitions have just opened: a retrospective of John Baldessari’s work, Pure Beauty, and a two part exhibition of Catherine Opie’s work: Figure and Landscape featuring the projects, Football and Surfers. I also appreciate that these are both artists who live and work in Los Angeles and are being celebrated on their home turf. This fall LACMA will showcase an exhibition by William Eggleston, The Democratic Camera. If you are heading west, these exhibitions are definitely work a visit. Pure Beauty is moving to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC this October.
One of the best magazine articles I’ve ever read was in Esquire and it was about how to fry an egg. I never cease to think about that humorous and descriptive article when I pull out a small cast iron pan to make breakfast. And that article reminds me how I feel about John Baldessari. His work has resonated with me since I discovered it in art school, and it’s his ability to make simple and humorous ideas into something more significant and resonate, that serves him so well. Baldessari is one of the treasures of the Los Angeles Art community and his work continues to be innovative and vital. I came away from the exhibition filled up with ideas and thoughts about new ways to approach work.
From LACMA: John Baldessari is one of the most influential American artists working today. This long overdue retrospective will feature more than 150 works spanning the artist’s career from 1962 to the present day, and include works on canvas, photography, videos and artist’s books. Baldessari’s 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. Throughout and continuing today, Baldessari’s interest in language, both written and visual, raises questions about the nature of communication.
Catherine Opie’s exhibition, Figure and Landscape, takes a look at the All-American pastime of High School Football showcasing teenage players from seven states across the country. The show balances portraits and landscapes, each with a different backdrop, be it the mountains of Honolulu, Hawaii, or the urban sprawl of Los Angeles. The work also explores issues of masculinity and identity. I wrote about this project on Lenscratch in February and it was great to see it on the walls.
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