Thursday, December 23, 2010

Lookalike: John Baldessari

There are three artists that encapsulate the LA experience for us Ed Ruscha, John Baldessari and Paul McCarthy. Put that down for the cool, the humour and the general weirdness. So imagine our surprise when we checked out the news in NZ last night to find a Baldessari lookalike on the front page of the New Zealand Herald's web version. In this case it was a couple of people up on court charges. 

The issues around identity have always fascinated artists. Mike Stevenson did a series of imagined court portraits in the style of those odd drawings that are still allowed in courts when they don’t allow photography (and if that doesn’t say something about a general lack of faith in the ability of artists to create likenesses what does?). We're also reminded of those strange images Seraphine Pick created with figures, their heads covered over with paper sacks. 

Baldessari’s famous images of found photographs with the heads covered with coloured stickers were occasioned by a rather different impulse. Balsessari, said, “They were of local dignitaries, the mayor, the fire chief, guys shaking hands and smiling at the camera. I figured they had this hold on me. Here I am isolated in my studio, and they’re out making decisions about my life, and I’m not participating in it. I was using some price stickers for another project, and I pulled out the photographs and covered their faces. I felt a great flood of relief. It leveled the playing field between them and me.”

With the ongoing tension between the media and the courts over name suppression and the publics right to know it hard not to look for clues when a news outlet chooses to reach back for the sticker solution rather than the more usual Photoshop blur or pixalisation.
Images: Top, image of couple with name suppression appearing in court. Bottom, John Baldessari Stonehenge (With Two Persons) Orange