Notes on John Baldessari and Mary Jane Jacob – In Conversation

The following notes were taken while reading John Baldessari and Mary Jane Jacob In Conversation (n.d.).

In this short conversation, Baldessari sketches a timeline of the different studio spaces he has inhabited throughout his career. Jacob points out that the artist has “four and a half studios”, which is interesting in light of Baldessari’s status as a “post-studio” artist.

Baldessari’s strategy appears to be to separate different aspects of his work – over the years maintaining a “painting studio”, a “printing studio”, an “office”, and so on. The artist makes use of assistants for various aspects of his work, though values time alone.

Baldessari describes his studio spaces as being populated with “books everywhere, and magazines” – a process by which he “replicates himself”. He also notes that he has “replicated the same thing” in his home: “it’s just – take everything that’s available and pile up magazines”. The artist quotes a comment from Vito Acconci that resonates with him: “I just like to have stuff around to pick up and look at”, and adds “I like to just look at a magazine, whatever, so that’s how I fill my time”.

This short text gives an insight into the studio’s function for Baldessari as a meditative space, one in which the artist can browse and reflect on imported materials, a practice from which one’s own output may arise.

It is interesting to consider this relationship between input and output, or input-reflection/contemplation-output. To what extent should the artist’s studio “import” pre-existing cultural material, and how is this realized (perhaps differently) in alternative, post-studio or domestic “studio” working environments?

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