Art is More than Painting

John Baldessari, a pioneer of conceptual art, felt he wasn’t going anywhere with painting and so in the late 1960s he had the “body” of work cremated and took home the ashes in a box. He made cookies from some of the ashes, hoping they would be eaten and ultimately return to the earth, although only one person ate the cookie.

In a survey of his work at the Metropolitan Museum, there are at least two extraordinary videos: In one we see him standing there in grainy black and white, moving his arm in small motions of change, reciting “I am making art, I am making art, I am making art.” In another, he sings the words of Sol Lewitt to Beatles tunes.

He also fills a ruled page with “I will make no more boring art,” like a child in school is forced to write as punishment.

With photography, he broke all the rules. For example, he’d frame a picture in the camera, then move the camera to shoot it.

As a collage artist, he believes two things go together when they don’t go together; that is, there is tension and tautness. “But it has to be similar enough to be intriguing.”

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