John Baldessari: Parse
Edited by Beatrix Ruf.
John Baldessari (born 1931) is a luminary in the realms of Conceptual art and book art, and one of the most important figures in contemporary art of the last 40 years. Since his sensational Cremation Project of 1970, for which he incinerated every single painting he had made between 1953 and 1966, Baldessari's work has mined the tensions between language, image and sign-making. Baldessari unpicks the very mechanisms of media representation, and even the idea of artistic subject matter itself, using painting, photography, film/video, collage and reliefs, integrating images and text from advertising and movies into his works. Since 1980, Baldessari has worked mostly without text in serial photographs and pictures, and strategies such as overpainting, visual omissions and withheld information have increasingly taken on the earlier function of language. For this superbly designed book, Baldessari has designed a sequence of enigmatically fragmentary and geometrically emphatic images, arranged rhythmically across the volume's landscape format, that slowly accrete narrative as the reader-viewer moves through the book. These fragments, derived largely from B-movie stills, lead into a second chapter that reproduces the complete pictures. Juggling these themes of composition, information, omission and rhythm, Parse consolidates Baldessari's signature concerns into a great work of book art.