The quote from John Baldessari that I posted last week, “Solving Each Problem As It Arises” is incredibly inspiring to me. I wasn’t yet twenty when I saw it for the first time, and for all I can remember, it was my first major contact with a Conceptual Art piece. On first view and reading, the premise is simple: Baldessari discusses his feelings on how artists process through ideas and lead themselves through work and to an exhibition. A fairly simple quote, and a fairly simple idea of painting a quote (or an idea) on a canvas.
As one learns more about Baldessari and his work, and the more one examines this work in particular, one can begin to appreciate the finer nuances that really makes this simple idea a grand work of art.
The real presentation of the idea, though, falls on these two facts:
1) Many of his paintings were not painted by him, but by others who were commissioned to perform the work needed to realize his ideas;
2) If you look carefully at the painting, you will see that the immediate problem presented was squeezing all the letters of the words onto the canvas. You will notice the varying sizes of the letter O, some wide and fat and others, most prominently on the right side of the canvas, skinnier.
With great simplicity Baldessari demonstrates in his design that sometimes the way an artist solves a problem is by shoving things in, reducing things down, hyphenating, kerning, shrinking, and otherwise making like-things different from themselves to get the idea across. The process is now the idea. In our daily lives, as artists-all-in-our-own-right, we perform these actions everyday, whether it is an extended hug with our loved ones, or coffee on-the-go as we run to catch public transit. The idea might be “do this now” while the reality is “limited space/time.”
Idea, problem, and resolution in one moment.