John Baldessari reflects on his favourite things

A Goya etching, a picture by Sol LeWitt and a yodelling pickle from Damien Hirst are among most treasured items
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John Baldessari
John Baldessari

John Baldessari isn't your typical painter or sculptor. Indeed, the 82-year-old once taught a so-called Post-Studio class, an assertion in itself that, even if you weren't labouring over canvas or marble, you could still create art. So, it shouldn't come as any surprise that, alongside traditional examples of fine art, some of his favourite objects aren't the kind of thing you'd expect to see exhibited in the Met any time soon.

In an interview for the Wall Street Journal entitled John Baldessari's Favourite Things, the artist runs through such a collection of objects. It does include a couple of traditional fine-art works. He has a Goya etching; the Spanish printer-maker and painter is “a role model because of his use of chiaroscuro,” Baldessari explains.

 

Pencil Story (1972) by John Baldessari (featured in The Art Book)
Pencil Story (1972) by John Baldessari (featured in The Art Book)

He also has a small picture by Sol LeWitt, “He used to do drawings on postcards and mail them out to friends,” he tells the WSJ. Claes Oldenburg, gave him a sculpture during a dinner party. Bruce Nauman, the subject of a forthcoming Phaidon monograph, was a guest too at Oldenburg's house, and also received one. “I got the orange one and Bruce got the black one,” Baldessari says. “I don't know if that means anything.”

 

Chainsaw and Two Hands (2010) by John Baldessari
Chainsaw and Two Hands (2010) by John Baldessari

There are other works by lesser-known artists, such as Analia Saban, a former student of Baldessari's. And then there are more frivolous objects, such as a giant Chinese chilli pod given to the artist by Tom Waits, a vase filled with baseballs from the Rodarte sisters, and a plastic yodelling pickle from Damien Hirst. “You press a button and it yodels,” he says. “I love it.”

 

A yodelling pickle, the contemporary artist's favourite
A yodelling pickle, the contemporary artist's favourite

What a wonderful lesson in aesthetics. Read the full piece and see a picture of the objects here. For more on John, Sol, Hirst and Goya, consider our comprehensive and supremely authoritative The Art Book. And if you're wondering whether a yodelling pickle counts as art if Damien Hirst gave it to you, perhaps you should pick up a copy of Defining Contemporary Art.


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