NY museum honors artist Baldessari in retrospective

Tue Oct 19, 2010 12:18pm EDT
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By Basil Katz

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - More than 120 works, including two huge canvases commissioned for the exhibition, are included in a retrospective of legendary American artist John Baldessari at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The show, "John "Baldessari: Pure Beauty" which opens on Tuesday, is the first for the Los Angeles-based artist in New York for 20 years and includes works dating back to 1962.

The two new 25-foot (8.2 meter) works "Brain/Cloud," which features a giant cloud-like brain floating in a blue background, and "Palm Tree/Seascape," a canvas showing a palm tree jutting up in front of an expanse of ocean, hang in the lobby of the museum, created specifically for the New York show.

"I don't think they (visitors) need any preshow counseling," the 79-year-old artist, who was dressed in all-black with a scraggly white beard, told reporters at a preview of the show.

Baldessari is often described as a conceptual artist. Critics regularly refer to Salvador Dali and Marcel Duchamp when describing his humorous, usually colorful creations packed with pop culture references.

But Baldessari said his art is accessible to anyone who visits the museum.

"I don't think you really have to spoon feed the viewer," he explained. "You just have to give them something to hang on to and they can begin to unravel it themselves. It's kind of like reading a detective story, you get a clue, you follow that."

In "Planets (Chairs, Observer, White Paper)," a 1987 montage, Baldessari combines colored and black and white movie stills with a photo of planets in orbit, letting viewers form their own associations.   Continued...

<p>John Baldessari's "Palm Tree/Seascape" in the lobby of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. REUTERS/The Metropolitan Museum of Art/Handout</p>