• Post-War & Contemporary Art Af auction at Christies

    Sale 2599

    Post-War & Contemporary Art Afternoon Session

    15 November 2012, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 541

    John Baldessari (b. 1931)

    Goya Series: There Isn't Time

    Price Realised  


    John Baldessari (b. 1931)
    Goya Series: There Isn't Time
    inkjet print and acrylic on canvas
    75 x 60 in. (190.6 x 152.5 cm.)
    Executed in 1997.

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    In the "Goya Series" pictures, Baldessari re-introduces his examination of the dialogue between imagery and text, first explored in his groundbreaking works on canvas made in National City, California in the early 1960s. Titles from "Los Desastres de la Guerra," the cycle of etchings produced two centuries ago, are linked with photographs of modern everyday objects so that the viewer receives information in two different ways. As we fumble to understand the image and the text and the meanings in between, we are forced to search our own associations, thus abandoning our role of the passive observer.

    Reductive in palette and consisting of a single photographic image, There Isn't Time, executed in 1997, reflects the artists return to working on canvas. In an interview with Meg Cranston, the artist reflects on this work:

    "I think this piece came out of the Vanitas Series I did way back, which was about life being fleeting and flowers in a vase somehow representing that. It can also be read as when someone sends flowers it is usually about trying to repair something and often being too late" (J. Baldessari as quoted in M. Cranson, "John Baldessari: Many Worthwhile Aspects," Baldessari, exh. cat., Hannover, 1999, p. 23).

    Critic Peter Schjeldahl writes:

    The semiotic game of [the Goya Series] is so simple that you get it at a glance: words and pictures brought to laconic, ever so slightly heightened, elegant equipoise. The change rung on Goya (himself a neo-Cynic, by the way, if ever there was one) mildly startles. Words that, in the Spaniard's etchings, coldly understate the content of horrific visions become the hotter elements in Baldessari's equations. Baldessari counters the natural priority that images have over text in our experience. Instead of looking first and reading second, we do both pretty much at once. A buzzing standoff may occur between the visual and the verbal centers of one's brain.

    The effect is strong and clear, bracing the eye and mind. It feels moral, somehow, like a recall to first principles. The dominant tone is Goya's, hauntingly. Long ago and far away, there existed a valiant spirit that knew the thing it looked at and knew, as well, that words could not begin to express the thing. Goya used language to expose the inadequacy of language. Baldessari borrows Goya's language--each item of it as obdurate as a rock thrown through a closed window--to do the same for imagery. The result is artful anti-art (P. Schjeldahl, "Wonderful Cynicism: John Baldessari," Village Voice, February 10, 1998, p. 121).


    Sonnabend Gallery, New York


    Los Angeles, Margo Leavin Gallery, John Baldessari: The Goya Series, April-May 1997.
    Venice, La Biennale di Venezia: 47th International Art Exhibition, June-November 1997.
    New York, Sonnabend Gallery, John Baldessari: The Goya Series, January-February 1998.
    Sprengle Museum Hannover and Staatliche Kunstammlungen Dresden, Gemäldegalerie Neue Meister, Baldessari, While something is happening here, something else is happening there, Works 1988-1999, September 1999-April 2000, pp. 97-98 (illustrated).
    London, Tate Modern; Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona; Los Angeles County Museum of Art and New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, John Baldessari: Pure Beauty, October 2009-January 2011, pp. 279 and 321 (illustrated).