Mai 36 Galerie present John Baldessari: Food, a tribute exhibition in honor of the late John Baldessari, bringing together works from 10 series, spanning from his earliest work in 1970 to his final series in 2019. The exhibitions marks Baldessari’s 15th solo exhibition at the gallery in a relationship that dates back over thirty years.
With John Baldessari’s passing on January 2nd, 2020, we were left with time to reflect on John’s life, his personality, humor and sharp thinking. It led us to our exhibition John Baldessari: Food which is based on John’s passion for food and his amusement with food culture and all its absurdity.
From asparagus, cucumbers and oranges to sautéed scallops, food has been a popular subject throughout many of John’s series, often serving as a commentary on the relationship between art, consumerism and culture. In 2004, Baldessari published the book “Yours in Food”, featuring reflections on food and eating from various contemporary writers.
The exhibition starts with remains of the historic work “The Cremation Project” from 1970. In 1970, Baldessari radically decided to burn all paintings he had made between 1953 and 1966 and baked their ashes into cookies and placed them in a glass urn. This act marked the beginning of a new phase for Baldessari—namely the juxtaposition of text and image.
In his early series “Choosing” from 1971, Baldessari used raw food in a conceptual game about choosing. In “Asparagus” a participant was asked to choose any asparagus from a group of three for whatever reasons. The chosen asparagus was carried over; the two others were dis- carded and two new asparagus were added. The next choice was made, and so on.
The series “Morsels and Snippets” sarcastically played on the snobbery of haute cuisine, where menus are so elaborate that guests must decipher dishes first to understand their ingredients. Being allergic to seafood, this became a silly yet existential personal task for Baldessari. An unmistakable political flavor resonates in the absurd combination of excellent food with pho- tographs supposedly casually torn out of newspapers and the artist‘s familiar use of strong col- ours covering parts of pictures. The resulting provocation gives viewers both literal and figura- tive food for thought.