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John Baldessari: A Print Retrospective From the Collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and His Family Foundation

Sunday, Feb 05, 2012 to Sunday, May 13, 2012

John Baldessari is an internationally celebrated artist, yet southern California is and has always been his home. He began his art making in his birthplace, National City, located between San Diego and the U.S./Mexico border. In 1960, MCASD, then the La Jolla Art Center, gave Baldessari his first exhibition. His relationship with the Museum has continued, including the 1997 one-person show National City. Once again MCASD is honored to welcome Baldessari back to the Museum, this time with an expansive survey of his entire body of printmaking.

Baldessari took on printmaking in the 1970s and has continued unabated. With laconic wit and visual restraint, he alters and crops photographic images to build a beguiling visual vocabulary. This current retrospective of Baldessari’s prints, including more than 100 works made between 1973 and 2010 in media as diverse as lithography, etching, photogravure, aquatint, photo intaglio, embossing, silkscreen, and beyond, presents a beautiful and cacophonous example of the adventures in seeing and thinking he can conjure.

Drawn from the impressively rich and deep holdings of contemporary prints assembled by collector, business man, and philanthropist Jordan Schnitzer, this exhibition represents the largest offering of Baldessari’s graphic oeuvre ever assembled. The show began at the same time a major retrospective of Baldessari’s work in other media was touring large museums in Europe and the United States. Together, these two exhibitions provide a long overdue survey of Baldessari’s development from his early language and photo-based works from the 1960s to the complexly structured works of recent date, often involving mixed media and even large-scale environmental assemblages.

The two shows also offer an object lesson in the interrelatedness of conceptual, visual, and physical approach in Baldessari’s work in different media. Especially important is the fact that he has made prints on a regular basis from very early in his career, and that they participate significantly in the generation of ideas interweaving all his work. Too often, prints are seen as a subset of work in other media—as a reprise or re-rehearsal of imagery previously engendered and tested. But for Baldessari, printmaking has long existed as a coequal of other expressive forms, participating fruitfully in the development of the many artistic strategies that have continued to this day to propel his thinking onward, steadily and strongly, with surprising twists and turns along the way. His collaboration with numerous presses and printers and his nonstop experimentation with materials and media are testimony to his devotion to the endless potentials of printmaking. Baldessari places a high value on the art of printmaking, and this exhibition will reveal the rich results of this engagement.

John Baldessari: a Print Retrospective is organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego and the Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation. Funding is made possible thanks to The ResMed Foundation and proceeds from MCASD’s 2010 Art Auction. Related programs are supported by grants from the James Irvine Foundation Arts Innovation Fund, and the County of San Diego Community Enhancement Fund. Institutional support for MCASD is provided, in part, by the City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture.