Double Bill (Part 2): …and Ernst
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  • In Short

    “If paintings had babies, they might look like the 11 works in John Baldessari: Double Bill (Part 2) — just like their parents, only different. At Margo Leavin Gallery, [the artist] plays the part of matchmaker, midwife and master of ceremonies, mixing and mashing masterpieces into hilariously original hybrids that make you wonder if art comes in parts or only in wholes… No two are alike. Yet each is clearly a Baldessari — a whole lot more than the sum of its sources and nothing less than a pleasure to behold, a thrill to contemplate and a delight to dive into.”

    David Pagel



     
    John Baldessari’s Double Bill (Part 2): …and Ernst, 2012, belongs to a series that represents a remarkable development in the mature phase of the artist’s illustrious and prolific career. Having drawn most of his source imagery from photographs and film stills since the 1970s, Baldessari turns to the art historical canon in his Double Bill (Part 2) series, mixing and conflating two iconic paintings into collaged hybrids that become more than the sum of their parts. Prominently captioned with the name of a single artist – here, “…AND ERNST” – the caption and title of each work implies a coupling that invites the viewer to draw on their memories and art historical knowledge to solve the mystery of identifying the unnamed artist on the “double bill.”
  • Source Imagery

  • Essay

    In the present work, Baldessari cuts apart and reworks selections from two very different paintings – Max Ernst’s Aquis Submersus, 1919, and David Hockney’s Sunbather, 1966. Melding, superimposing, and cropping the source images – Baldessari moves Hockney’s figure from the background to the foreground of the composition, positioning Ernst’s mysterious figure looming behind the unaware sunbather, infusing the composition with an ominous, yet humorous effect. The private swimming pools in Hockney’s most iconic paintings represent the sexual freedom and hedonism that he found upon his arrival in Los Angeles, where Baldessari lived, worked, and taught throughout his career; while the psychologically charged pool in Ernst’s surrealist composition signifies an act of disappearing and diving into the unconscious part of one’s psyche. Through his poignant juxtapositions, Baldessari encourages the viewer to imagine the narratives and relationships that manifest from the collision between the seemingly disparate images.

    While the source imagery of Baldessari’s Double Bill (Part 2) series came as a surprise, these canvases encompass the trademark motifs and recall the
    formats and compositions of the most iconic works throughout the artist’s oeuvre. Despite the depth and breadth of his career, the artist ironically suggested that he will be best remembered as “the guy who puts dots over people’s faces.” From the mid-1980s, onwards, Baldessari employed circular price tags and painted flat, geometric shapes to occlude distracting elements and alter the meanings of his appropriated images. In Double Bill (Part 2): …and Ernst, the gray, green, black, purple, and white geometric planes recall elements of earlier iconic works by the artist, such as Frames and Ribbon, 1988. The format of Double Bill (Part 2): …and Ernst also recalls Baldessari’s iconic 1969 Commissioned Painting series, where the artist prominently featured as self-reflexive captions, the names of the sign painters that he hired to render photorealistic images upon each canvas. Baldessari uses a similar device in the Double Bill (Part 2) series, revisiting his examination of the nature of artistic authorship through his Magritte-like semiotic experiments of pitting text against images.


     

    “Conceptualism doesn’t really describe what I do. If somebody wants to use that term, it’s fine, but I’d prefer a word that’s broader and better. I’m really just an artist.”

    John Baldessari


     


    One of the reasons Baldessari has been labeled a conceptual artist is the ease with which he transitioned between making paintings, photographs, billboards, sculptures, books, prints, and videos – most comfortable blurring the distinctions between these mediums. Over the astounding sixty years of his artistic practice, with over three hundred solo shows and over one thousand group shows, Baldessari shaped the careers of the following generation of conceptual artists, influencing artists such as Cindy Sherman, Mike Kelley, Richard Prince, David Salle, and Matt Mullican. Baldessari never ceased to innovate – as Catherine Opie proclaims “perhaps his most famous statement ‘I will not make any more boring art’ was his recognition that the world contained enough material to explore for a lifetime.”[i]


    [i] Catherine Opie, quoted in Calvin Tomkins, “No More Boring Art: John Baldessari’s crusade”, The New Yorker, October 18, 2010, online
     
  • Video

     
    • Provenance

      Margo Leavin Gallery, Los Angeles
      Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2012

    • Exhibited

      Los Angeles, Margo Leavin Gallery, John Baldessari: Double Bill (Part 2), May 12 - June 28, 2012
      Durham, Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University; Columbus, The Ohio State University Urban Arts Space; New York, Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery, Columbia University; Portland, Ronna and Eric Hoffman Gallery of Contemporary Art, Lewis & Clark College, Open This End: Contemporary Art from the Collection of Blake Byrne, February 19, 2015 - December 11, 2016, pl. 7, p. 114 (illustrated, p. 17)

    • Literature

      David Pagel, "Review: 'John Baldessari' is joyously more than sum of its sources", Los Angeles Times, May 18, 2012, online

248

Property from the Collection of Blake Byrne, Los Angeles

Double Bill (Part 2): …and Ernst

varnished inkjet print, acrylic and oil on canvas
69 5/8 x 60 1/8 in. (176.7 x 152.6 cm)
Executed in 2012.

Estimate
$200,000 - 300,000 

sold for $237,500

Contact Specialist

Rebekah Bowling
Head of Day Sale, Afternoon Session
New York

1 212 940 1250

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session

New York Auction 2 July 2020