Building on Baldessari’s homages to the art historical canon, which have centered on subjects from Giotto to Miro to Pollock/Benton, the new exhibition pairs two icons of art, Picabia and Mondrian.
This was the first time I collided the two, Picabia and Mondrian. Mondrian is an icon of contemporary art. I felt it was the time to put the two together. Collision is a working principle of mine. When you collide two things, you see what makes them special or different.
Baldessari transposes fragments from these two masters, layering, opposing, and intersecting their histories with his own interventions and white blockages to construct a composite third way. Delighting in the pairing of incongruent words and images, he presents them as interchangeable and equal, creating a point of departure for an interconnected path that achieves a new reading. “Stories that are given shape by a pre-established structure, that merge and diverge, that come back on themselves, are visual/verbal, started by one, and finished by another,” Baldessari says. A true bibliophile and lover of literature, including dictionaries and reference books, Baldessari delights in presenting uncommon words and uncanny and unexpected imagery–puzzles for the viewer to ponder. Against the visual legacy of Picabia and Mondrian, he here juxtaposes words beginning with the letter Z. Infrequently used in daily life, their meanings are not immediately understood– “Zag”, Zebu”, Zaftig”, “Zayin”, “Zarzuela”, “Zecchino”, “Zealot”. As Baldessari says, “I don’t think Z enters our life very much, except for in jazz.”