PRINT April 2020


Catherine Opie, John (detail), 2013, ink-jet print, 33 × 25". © Estate of John Baldessari.

AS I SIT DOWN TO WRITE a remembrance of John Baldessari, I realize that it is the details I will miss most. The kind cadence of his voice as he persisted in giving you advice, a cigar burning at the edge of his ashtray and a glass of scotch at his side. John’s studio desk felt like a key to the universe: Its diverse contents seemed a great recipe for life. John was never formally my teacher, but it doesn’t matter—we were all his students. He gave us lessons in life and in art, generously encouraging the pursuit of one’s own individual practice. He believed that rules were meant to broken—poked and prodded or carved with a humor and intelligence as sharp and precise as a surgical knife. He whittled at the flaws that make us human and in so doing revealed our humanity to us all. Perhaps his famous statement “I will not make any more boring art” was his recognition that the world

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