John Baldessari - Contemporary Art Day Sale New York Friday, May 16, 2014 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Acquired directly from the artist
    Collection of Louis M. Sander, San Diego
    Acquired from the above by descent

  • Literature

    This work will be included in the forthcoming John Baldessari Catalogue Raisonné, Volume 3: 1987-1993.

  • Catalogue Essay

    Having grown up in Southern California, and subsequently attending numerous schools in the region, starting with a B.A. at San Diego State and ending with post-graduate work at Chouinard Art Institute, Baldessari’s work has always reflected the culture and climate of his surroundings, be it in the appropriated imagery pulled from film and other picture media, to the ability of West Coast artists to shun and reject established artistic norms codified out east. The current work, an oil on canvas from 1964, is one of the earliest known examples of how Baldessari incorporated text into his paintings. Eventually, he would eliminate representative elements in favor of plain text, which he would then isolate further by having it painted by professional sign-painters, thereby completely removing the artist’s hand. Here, however, we see Baldessari’s skilled ability as a draftsman in pure and lush paint. Interestingly, the banner along the upper edge and the cartooned style of the composition imply that this image, too, was found, possibly as an illustration in a book or cartoon. His cheeky addition of “Sin” in red transforms the composition from a literal ocean rescue to one which implies a rescue from a less wholesome existence.

    In 1962, two years prior to this painting’s realization, Louis Sander opened his Art Works Gallery in the wave of San Diego’s rapidly developing art scene. The second solo show that he produced, and the first commercial gallery exhibition of the artist, was John Baldessari’s X Exhibition. Sander was himself a particular personality on the scene and Baldessari’s early show clearly set the bar for both the artist, and the dealer’s, later careers. This rare painting was gifted to Louis Sander. By 1964, Baldessari was already playing with appropriated imagery, irony, and incorporated text, and as the decade progressed, the paintings became more and more restrained, relying only on text couched from art historical heavyweights like George Kubler. Untitled is a fantastic example of the artist’s own hand working an early painting and grappling with many of the same compositional and critical elements which would continue to color the rest of his oeuvre.



oil on canvas
36 1/2 x 24 in. (92.7 x 61 cm.)
Signed and dated “Baldessari 64” in pencil along the lower edge.

$200,000 - 300,000 

Sold for $221,000

Contact Specialist
Amanda Stoffel
Head of Day Sale
+1 212 940 1261

Contemporary Art Day Sale

New York 16 May 2014 11am