PRINT October 1979

John Baldessari’s ‘Blasted Allegories’

All thought, judgment, perception, as comparison has as its precondition a positing of equality, and earlier still a making equal.

—Friedrich Nietzsche1

Allegories are, in the realm of thought, what ruins are in the realm of things.

—Walter Benjamin2

JOHN BALDESSARI’S “BLASTED ALLEGORIES (Colorful Sentences)” of 1978 consist of clusters of four or more Polaroid photographs of “random T.V.” scenes (often tinted), captioned and arranged in novel kinds of syntax. Some are reminiscent of subject-verb-object declarations, others of equations or ratios similar to rhetorical figures or tropes. Still others are structured in quasi-semiological grids, the horizontal axes with photos as syntagms in a metonymic order and the vertical axes with the photo-paradigms “carved out,” in a metaphoric order, of each photo-syntagm.

In each case a caption articulates the photo or adds information that is necessary,

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