After torching his early work, John Baldessari invented an eccentric conceptualism
Trying to make art creates a host of problems. One of the best ways of handling these, as John Baldessari seems to have realized in the mid-1960s, is to let the problems be someone else's. Then art becomes like the news. "I just read it and laugh," Baldessari once reflected, "say, what the hell is going on?" Not everyone reads the news with such aloofness, of course (or then again maybe we do, since we manage to down our breakfasts while perusing the latest in war, murder, and economic collapse). And probably few artists read the discourses of art—practical, critical, theoretical—with the quizzical detachment that Baldessari has brought to them.
Achieving detachment from the problems of art, of course, can mean disembarrassing oneself of the works that embody them. Baldessari famously did so in 1970, when he
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