John Baldessari - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session New York Tuesday, November 13, 2018 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Marian Goodman Gallery, New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts, John Baldessari, Oeuvres Récentes, September 18 - November 6, 1988
    Hannover, Kestner-Gesellschaft, John Baldessari: Photoarbeiten, December 9, 1988 - January 29, 1989, no. 21, p. 55
    New York, Sonnabend Gallery, John Baldessari: Laurence Sterne's The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, January 7 - 28, 1989

  • Literature

    Patrick Pardo and Robert Dean, eds., John Baldessari Catalogue Raisonné, Volume Three: 1987-1993, New Haven, 2015, no. 1988.69, p. 141 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    “I am interested in what gets us to stop and look, as opposed to simply consuming images passively.” – John Baldessari

    John Baldessari’s visually arresting photocollages investigate themes of disjunction, juxtaposition, and collision, three central tenants to the artist’s enduring and influential practice. A key figure in the Conceptualist Movement which arose in the late 1960s, Baldessari’s distinctive works explore how photographic images communicate. This concern is clearly evidenced in the artist’s signature photomontages, from which the present lot originates, where he meticulously crops, re-arranges, and structures found images and photo stills into seemingly random compositions. In Airplanes / Parachutes from 1988, Baldessari structures the canvas around the fortuitous relationship between two elements – airplanes and parachutes – and provides little to no context for this chance happening. By intentionally cropping out any subtext that offers clues to the original images, Baldessari probes the viewer to dig deeper into his or her subconscious to construct new narratives. In discussing his photomontages, the artist notes, “I am interested in what happens when two images abut each other. It’s like when two words collide and some new word in some new meaning comes out of it.” (John Baldessari, quoted in Ann Goldstein and Christopher Williams, “The Things We Sweep Under the Rug: A Conversation with John Baldessari”, John Baldessari: Life’s Balance, 1984-2004, exh. cat., Kunsthaus Graz, 2005, p. 81) In Airplanes / Parachutes, the two vertically-stacked, black-and-white photographs initially appear to exist in isolation. Yet the sky and monochrome palette provide the composition a sense of cohesion, begging the questions – Are these events occurring at the same time? In the same sky? And thus, a narrative begins to unfold.

    Airplanes / Parachutes can also be examined in the context of Baldessari’s preoccupation with war-time imagery during the 1980s. During this period, he incorporated images of soldiers and wounded figures in many of his photocollages, and, in 1987, he executed the provocative and chilling work, Inventory. In this collage, Baldessari juxtaposes images of suburban supermarkets with one of nude corpses in a Nazi concentration camp. Airplanes / Parachutes similarly illustrates Baldessari’s fascination with war, albeit in a more subtle manner. In the present lot, the V-formation of airplanes coupled with the cascading parachutes recall that of a military scene, once again encouraging the viewer to fabricate his or her own plot: Are we witnessing a celebratory display or an actual attack? The static nature of the photographs which contrasts with the implied dynamism of these war-time acts lends a cinematic quality to the composition. Like two stills from the same film, Baldessari’s unique juxtaposition leaves the viewer searching for answers to the larger questions this socially and politically charged artwork powerfully probes.


Airplanes / Parachutes

two black-and-white photographs
60 x 26 in. (152.4 x 66 cm.)
Executed in 1988.

$80,000 - 120,000 

Sold for $193,750

Contact Specialist
Rebekah Bowling
Head of Day Sale, Afternoon Session
New York
+ 1 212 940 1250
[email protected]

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session

New York Auction 14 November 2018