John Baldessari

Margo Leavin Gallery

The same guy who, as legend has it, dramatized his conversion to Conceptual art in the mid ’60s by setting fire to the traditional canvases that marked the beginning of his career has returned to painting. Perhaps, thirty years later, Baldessari is following the path taken by many famed senior artists: retiring from his post as guiding light to indulge, at last, in those quaint, modest pleasures prohibited by the constraints of leadership. Or maybe, as many of his fans are insisting, he’s just pulling another fast one, that is, these aren’t really paintings at all but, rather, a “deconstruction” of painting.

Granted, Baldessari hasn’t exactly traded in his archive of movie stills for an easel, only expanded the role of paint in his familiar format—collaged photographs on paper hung behind glass encased in thin black frames. He no longer limits his brushwork to tight, flat circles in primary

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