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Lot 2: JOHN BALDESSARI
Contemporary Art Evening
June 21, 2006
London, United Kingdom
CHOOSING (A GAME FOR TWO PLAYERS): CARROTS
fourteen R-type prints mounted on paperboard
Executed in 1971, this work is unique and accompanied by a certificate signed by the artist.
Gian Enzo Sperone, New York
Galleria Massimo Minini, Brescia
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner in the early 1980s
Milan, Galleria Toselli, John Baldessari: Choosing, Aligning, Floating, 1973
"This work is part of a series of works about choosing. In this version a group of carrots was available from which to choose. A participant was asked to choose any three carrots from the group for whatever reason he/she might have at the moment. The three chosen carrots were then placed upon a surface to be photographed. I chose one of the three carrots for whatever reason I might have had at the moment. A photograph was taken of the selection process. The chosen carrot was carried over; the two other carrots not chosen were discarded; two new carrots were added. The next choice was made, and so on. Each of the participants develops strategies unknown to the other player as the selection process continues until all the other carrots are used." (John Baldessari, December 1971)
John Baldessari is one of the original group of key conceptual artists who rose to prominence in the 1960s. His work plays with contemporary art theory, ironicising it, and treating it with a deadpan absurdist humour. Choosing (A Game for Two Players): Carrots builds on the artist's series of Commissioned Paintings, with their focus on the process of selection and "pointing at things". In the Choosing series, he takes the process of artistic selection begun by Duchamp with his "readymades" to its logical extreme. Taking a reductivist attitude, inspired by the minimalism of the period, Baldessari stripped his work to what he saw as the essential issue of art -- that of choice. He also marries this idea with his interest in games and the rules they involve. Through setting a somewhat random goal, Baldessari demonstrates the arbitrariness of choice and also perhaps aesthetic judgement. That the carrots are constantly being replaced brings in existential questions -- like the philosopher's axe, is this the same work of art?
Baldessari humanizes the whole process of selection by pointing at the object with a finger. Slightly comical when looked at in each individual photograph, the fingers take on their own aesthetic form -- which some have compared to William Hogarth's "line of beauty" - when the pictures are displayed together. Choosing (A Game for Two Players): Carrots combines photographic realism with the fundamental questions that an art based on choosing must posit: how do you choose: who chooses: and on what basis do you choose? Baldessari has here captured the essence of making art.