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PRINT April 2020

JOHN BALDESSARI

I KNOW I SPEAK FOR MANY ARTISTS when I say that I would not be who I am without John. After four decades, his throwaway words still slosh happily around my brain, coloring my decisions with his wry humor and slapping down pretension at every turn. It’s hard to think of another artist who has had this kind of effect on me. While digging into his personal history to write this piece, I was stunned by how much of my artistic makeup is a composite of fragments of his own.

When I was a first-year student at CalArts, straight from the Hawaiian Islands—a place where my highest aspirations had been painting pot leaves and perfect waves—I was deeply confused by John. He wasn’t exactly scary—he didn’t have that way about him—but he was bewildering. While it was quite clear that John had long been the program’s heart and soul, it was also evident that he was becoming disinterested

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