John Baldessari - Photographs New York Monday, July 13, 2020 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Cirrus Gallery, Los Angeles, 1986

  • Literature

    Yale University Press, John Baldessari Catalogue Raisonné: Volume Two: 1975-1986, p. 389

  • Catalogue Essay

    "I want you to think through my color indication of blue that it is very beautiful, idyllic, and safe, something of the platonic ideal we aspire to. Orange I have been using as a sort of wild card . . . It can mean whatever I want it to mean, but in the area of danger, for I use it always as an antithesis to blue, the flip side of the coin.' - John Baldessari

    Created at a seminal time in Baldessari’s career, Life’s Balance (Male/Female) uses appropriation to construct new meaning out of recombined fragments. The piece addresses issues of gender and identity and raises questions that Baldessari, with characteristically sly humor, declines to answer. Insightful and irreverent, Baldessari turned a photograph of a boy (wide-mouthed and jumping) upside down, flanking it with duplicate photographs of a girl on a hobby horse, both tinted with oil-based pigment. In Life’s Balance (Male/Female) Baldessari creates a work in which black-and-white and color, and male and female, unite in an enigmatic yet compelling whole.

    Baldessari began his career as a semi-abstract painter in the 1950s, but it was his rejection of the craft of painting for a more conceptual approach to art making in the 1970s that led to his most important work. Baldessari turned to photo-collage in the 1980s, pioneering the use of appropriated photographic imagery which he often paired with paint and/or text in dynamic installations. In Life’s Balance, Baldessari breaks the boundaries between media creating a work that addresses an array of personal and social issues with humor. He described his process as ‘. . . a lifelong venture of trying to put a square peg in a round hole, of trying somehow to make a hybrid out of paint and photography. I rub two sticks together to make fire.’

    Baldessari’s contribution to the Los Angeles art community, and the larger contemporary art scene, cannot be overstated. Baldisseri joined CalArts in 1970 as a founding faculty member in the School of Art. He left in 1986 and later taught at the University of California, Los Angeles from 1996 to 2005. His roster of now-famous students includes David Salle, Mike Kelley, Jack Goldstein, Ken Feingold, Tony Oursler, James Welling, Barbara Bloom, and Matt Mullica.


Life’s Balance (Male/Female)

Gelatin silver print triptych, two with applied oil tinting.
Each 14 1/8 x 14 1/4 in. (35.9 x 36.2 cm)
Overall 14 1/8 x 43 in. (35.9 x 109.2 cm)

Cirrus Gallery label affixed to the reverse of the frame.

$100,000 - 150,000 

Contact Specialist

Sarah Krueger
Head of Department, Photographs

Vanessa Hallett
Worldwide Head of Photographs and Deputy Chairwoman, Americas

+212 940 1245


New York Auction 13 July 2020