What makes things meaningful? Is it the mere indication that something meaningful is, in fact, present? Is it the attention we then invest in it? Is it our capacity to subsequently rationalize that experiential phenomenon into a communicable verbal analog: to describe it in words? Is it in the act of communication? Such questions have been inherent to the act of artmaking since prehistory but began breaking surface in the 20th century, nowhere more elegantly than in the work of L.A. painter/photographer John Baldessari, whose retrospective exhibit “Pure Beauty” is up at LACMA through September 12. Having debuted at London’s Tate Modern last year, it will movie to NYC’s Metropolitan Museum later in the fall. A perfect example of Baldessari’s eloquence on these philosophically pointed matters is his series of Commissioned Paintings from 1969, a group of identically formatted canvases, each with a centered, more-or-less photorealistically rendered image of a finger indicating a feature in the environment — often a smudge or stain on a surface — with a caption below by a professional sign painter, reading “A Painting by Patrick X. Nidorf O.S.A.” or “A Painting by Anita Storck.”
more from Doug Harvey at the LA Weekly here.