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  • Provenance

    Margo Leavin Gallery, Los Angeles; Sonnabend Gallery, New York

  • Literature

    M. Cranston, D. Diederichsen, and T. Weski, Baldessari: While Something Is Happening Here, Something Else Is Happening There: Works 1988-1999, Germany, 1999, p. 79 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    What I leave out is more important. I want that absence, which creates a kind of anxiety. John Baldessari

    In an interview in 2004 Nicole Davis asked Baldessari for his reason to become an artist. Baldessari responded that he ‘always had this idea that doing art was just a masturbatory activity and didn’t really help anybody’. However, while working as a young man with kids in an honor camp in California the kids made him realize that “…art has some function in society…” In fact he explained that his understanding of art had not changed since then and that ‘it was enough to convince [him] that art did some good somehow,’ concluding he just needed a reason ‘that wasn’t all about myself.’ Until now Baldessari has remained faithful to this understanding. His arrangements of photographic montages, appropriations of cinematic images and painterly units describe mental, cultural and demographic identities through his visual landscape. However they remain playful and romantic and allow us to move within our own fantasies and associations.

    The present lot Man with handlebar mustache/two branches (with black intrusion) incorporates the essential ingredients Baldessari employs: both visually and conceptually. It makes us move our eyes from one element to the next and backwards again. In its center we find the black and white photograph of a tree’s branches to which the artist has added a single yellow paint stroke in suggestion of an extra branch. The interplay between photography and painting continues in the upper frame, where the black and white contrast of the piece again dominates. However, the signature dots which Baldessari has painted in hues of the primary colors red, yellow blue and his predominant color orange obscure the view onto the people’s heads that were originally illustrated in the found images. With two further elements of both, painting and photography, the nightscape to the left and the portrait to the right, this work offers an excellent example of how Baldessari exploits paint not in the manner of traditional painting but rather as an exploration of the possibilities it opens up to, and likewise presenting us with the potentials of the photographic medium. This notion has been essential to his practice in a much wider conceptual understanding with respect to the conventional exhibiting policies of the mid-late 20th century. In the same interview with Nicole Davis Baldessari said: “My mission for my own art I think was to break the certain “no-no’s” and “taboos” for galleries. One that you never saw photographs in art galleries, they were always in photo galleries. So I wanted to do that…photograph as a tool that an artist can use.” (John Baldessari in an interview with Nicole Davis, interviewed in his studio in Santa Monica, CA on April 12, 2004 and published on Artnet).


Man With Handlebar Mustache/Two Branches (with black intrusion)

One color photograph, one black and white photograph, one photocopy on Gandhi Ashram paper with stickers and acrylic wash, and two boards with enamel and oil paint.
82 3/5 x 97 3/5 in. (210 x 248 cm) overall.
This work is unique.

£100,000 - 150,000 

Sold for £144,000

The Marino Golinelli Collection

13 October 2007, 1pm