John Baldessari is an American conceptual artist known for his work featuring found photography and appropriated images. Initially a painter, Baldessari began to incorporate texts and photography into his canvases in the mid-1960s. In 1970 he began working in printmaking, film, video, installation, sculpture and photography. He has created thousands of works that demonstrate—and, in many cases, combine—the narrative potential of images and the associative power of language within the boundaries of the work of art.
His work is rooted in a prolonged consideration of photography and inevitably involves thinking about cuts, as each photo’s framing slices it out of its surrounding reality. During the 1980s, his fascination with the power of the cut became central, as photographs were cut up and into compulsively. These cuts included reframing the photograph, decapitating the figures in the photo, reducing the figures to silhouettes, flat outlines, or areas of color, and recontextualizing each image in relation to other images, slicing at its specificity until narrative fell away.
Baldessari has expressed that his interest in language comes from its similarities in structure to games, as both operate by an arbitrary and mandatory system of rules. In this spirit, many of his works are sequences showing attempts at accomplishing an arbitrary goal, such as Throwing Three Balls in the Air to Get a Straight Line (1973), in which the artist attempted to do just that, photographing the results, and eventually selecting the "best out of 36 tries", with 36 being the determining number just because that is the standard number of shots on a roll of 35mm film.
For Blasted Allegories, Baldessari arranged a series of photographs on a board to organize images as one would words in a sentence, playing with syntax and rhyme, destabilizing models of construction visually and linguistically. The stills depict various objects, stills from films and television, and bits of pop cultural ephemera.
The Alignment Series uses objects as centering devices. In Palm Tree (For Charlemagne) palm-tree trunks from various unrelated photographic sources are used to create the image of an enormous receding palm tree growing out of a musical instrument in the bottom photograph.
For the 19th BMW Art Car, John Baldessari turned to well-known stylistic devices and created an iconic work in a unique manner. As a committed minimalist, he worked with the colors red, yellow, blue and green. The picture of the car on the side plays with the ambiguity having two-dimension and three-dimension at the same time.