The US State Department created controversy when, despite deep budget cuts, it spent $400,000 on John Baldessari’s sculpture “Camel Contemplating a Needle”, representing the difficulty the wealthy have in entering the kingdom of heaven, for the new American embassy in Islamabad in Pakistan. The price was apparently discounted, but even Donald Trump couldn’t resist commenting on the purchase. The relevance of the sculpture for Pakistan is another question.
One of the camels in the series has been living in London, at the Marian Goodman Gallery, last year for an exhibition on Animality; this year linked to the exhibition of John Baldessari’s works “Miro and Life in General”.
Baldessari, born 1931 and living in California, is an American artistic circus-master bringing together photographic images, paintings and text to challenge the boundaries of art and language. In this exhibition, classic photographs from black and white movie stills are combined with Miro’s paintings, with coloured shapes moving from one to the other, and the addition of words that often appear to be the opposite of what is shown in the painting, so “Dependable” has two men with a prisoner tied to a chair and “Reliable” has a shadowy lover serenading his woman.
The paintings leave the impression that Baldessari enjoys life and the contradictions he creates in his paintings.
Hopefully Marion Goodman will bring Baldessari’s series on Pollock/Benton to London, on show in New York in December, exploring the “intermediate space” between Thomas Hart Benton and Jackson Pollock, connected by the fact that Benton was Pollock’s teacher.