PRINT April 2013


Michael Asher

Michael Asher, no title, 1969. Installation view, Seattle Art Museum Pavilion.


THE RECENT NEWS that the skeleton of King Richard III was unearthed in a parking lot in Leicester, UK, somehow reminds me of the work of Michael Asher. Michael would often go back in time to investigate art institutions and to unearth buried information. The news item would have been even more Michael if the parking lot had been used as a stable to park King Richard’s horses.

I was instrumental in bringing Michael to teach at CalArts. We were both included in a show organized by Lucy Lippard titled “557,087” at the Seattle Art Museum in 1969. Michael’s work was a room interior where he changed the wattage and color of the light source. Another piece he did, for Marcia Tucker’s show “Anti-Illusion: Procedures/Materials” at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1969, was simply a shaft of air issuing from the ceiling.

I’ve only seen two physical objects produced by Michael, both severely less is more. Other than these works (there may be others), there is nothing to own, which I admire.

Michael would have made an expert investigative reporter. He had a knack for discovering skeletons in the closet. He taught us to notice what we overlook.

The quote from The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance—“When the legend becomes fact, print the legend”—was reversed by Michael. No legends, just facts.

John Baldessari is an artist based in Los Angeles.