John Baldessari (born 1931 in National City/CA, lives in Santa Monica/CA) is one of the internationally most renowned conceptual artists, who from the1960s onwards has developed a complex and many-sided body of work. This includes canvases with phototexts, photography, film, video, painting, collages, and a wide range of site specific installations making use of a variety of different techniques and media. He has also been an influential teacher at art schools such as the California Institute of the Arts.

In his works Baldessari explores our associative abilities, and the way we perceive surroundings with our intellect and our senses which he visualizes through a wide range of symbolical and formal allusions. In this context, the question of representation and perception, both in photography and painting, has led to a unique conceptual use of photography, a medium which plays an important role in our lives, providing factual information as well as creating illusions.

A great number of Baldessari’s works are composite photo-collages combining photographs taken from various sources with abstract, painted patterns. Often they include stills from old black and white Hollywood movies, such as one part of the picture in the large-scale composite photo-collage If This Then That in The UBS Art Collection. The upper section of the work shows a dance-scene on a stage, presumably taken from a musical film. The dancers are seen from afar as shadow-silhouettes while the background is a wall of light. The heads of the ballet dancers are superimposed by painted monochrome color dots, a typical formal element in Baldessari’s photo-collages to symbolize the nature of the person’s character.
These dots formally correspond to the other part of the work, which shows an illustration of planets and their distances from each other, probably taken from a science or astronomical book. While the ballet dancers seem to be far away, the planets, surrounded by the dark orbit but recognizable in their textures, seem to be closer. This associative allusion, based on the correlation of abstract formal elements and the seemingly logic causality of the title, is typical for Baldessari’s open-minded, often ironical approach to cultural phenomena and the limits of language and its explanatory capacity. “I’m really interested in what conceptual leaps people can make from one bit of information to another and how they can fill the space” John Baldessari once mentioned in an interview, a statement which literally becomes true in If This Then That, a work which in itself is ‘space-connected’.


John Baldessari. New York: Rizzoli International Publications Inc., 1990.

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Baldessari, John

If This Then That

B+W Photographs, Vinyl Paint

80.25 x 67 inches