John Baldessari - Contemporary Art Part I New York Thursday, May 17, 2007 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Sonnabend Gallery, New York; D'Art Gallery, Chicago; Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

  • Exhibited

    New York, Sonnabend Gallery, John Baldessari, November 7 - 28, 1987; Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland Collects Contemporary Art, November 8, 1998 – January 10, 1999

  • Literature

    T. E. Hinson, Cleveland Collects Contemporary Art, Cleveland, 1998, pp. 78-79 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    John Baldessari, an artist who has been at the forefront of the Conceptual art movement since his arrival on the art scene in the late1960s, has spent the length of his career as an educator and promoter of American art, distinguishing his reputation through his unique approach where he combines intellectual content, formalism and the everyday. His achievement in reaching these goals is all the more visible in the present lot, Hands/Horse (To Agree), a photographic work from 1987. For this piece, Baldessari has assembled two images of businessmen, most likely honed from his private collection of civic portraiture clipped from American newspapers, who are unmistakably in the midst of clasping hands after ‘sealing the deal’. Adjacent Baldessari has placed photo stills from The Misfits, a movie starring Clark Cable and Marilyn Monroe in 1961. But the identity of this famous movie loses itself amongst the wind-swept Romantic image of an isolated landscape, two horses rearing and providing spectacle and appearing timeless were it not for the gentle reminder to their right. Baldessari’s film still conjures into mind visions of the Wild West, America’s once frontier land. Further still, the artist juxtaposes images of the American ideal typified by one’s success in the business world, with icons from Hollywood and the cultural legacy it has fostered. No doubt the parallel is a literal one as both reflect sources of America’s aspirations and dreams.

    Baldessari yields to mitigating the narrative in his images with the use of paint to cover up the faces of those pictured; as the artist describes upon first developing this method, “I had these labels around, these circular price stickers, and once I just covered over their faces and there was such a flood of relief, you couldn’t believe it felt so satisfying to obliterate those people,” (John Baldessari, taken from T. E. Hinson, Cleveland Collects Contemporary Art, Cleveland, 1998, pp. 78). In Hands/ Horses (To Agree), The artist succeeds in liberating the figures and allows room for more than one interpretation of his ‘freed’ conceptualism.


Hands / Horses (To Agree)

Three black and white photographs with acrylic in two parts.
Overall 48 1/4 x 122 1/2 in. (122.6 x 311.2 cm).

$400,000 - 600,000 

Sold for $880,000

Contemporary Art Part I

17 May 2007
7pm New York