Over the course of his 50-year career, John Baldessari never stopped exploring the seemingly infinite ways that words and images can be manipulated to create new layers of narrative meaning in art. Initially a more traditional painter, in the 1960s Baldessari found himself drawn to a combination of text and photography as the most effective vehicles for his creative intentions. Many of Baldessari’s pieces directly address the viewer with hand-painted questions about the nature of art: in What Is Painting (1966-68), Baldessari asks through the canvas, “Do you sense how all the parts of a good picture are involved with each other, not just placed side by side” This piece in particular seems to summarize Baldessari’s focus on the recontextualization of familiar images that would define his artistic practice for years to come.
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