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John Baldessari (b. 1931)
These lots have been imported from outside the EU … Read more
John Baldessari (b. 1931)

Animal (Orange) Descending Upon Kneeling Figure (Green)

John Baldessari (b. 1931)
Animal (Orange) Descending Upon Kneeling Figure (Green)
acrylic and vinyl on colour photograph, in artist's frame, in two parts
106 7/8 x 53 1/8in. (271.5 x 135cm.)
Executed in 1990
Sonnabend Gallery, New York.
Private Collection.
GalerieSprüth Magers, Berlin.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2011.
P. Pardo. and R. Dean. John Baldessari Catalogue Raisonné, London 2015, vol. III, no. 1990.50 (illustrated in colour, p. 235.)
New York, Sonnabend Gallery, John Baldessari, 1990.
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These lots have been imported from outside the EU for sale using a Temporary Import regime. Import VAT is payable (at 5%) on the Hammer price. VAT is also payable (at 20%) on the buyer’s Premium on a VAT inclusive basis. When a buyer of such a lot has registered an EU address but wishes to export the lot or complete the import into another EU country, he must advise Christie's immediately after the auction.

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Alexandra Werner Head of Sale

Lot Essay

‘I’ve always been fascinated by the multiple meanings that are contained within the image, the way that an image’s meaning can change through its association and placement with other images. Such arrangements reveal the way in which an image functions as part of a larger visual language. Meaning is derived from its immediate surroundings in the same way that a single word derives its meaning dependent on its use in a sentence.’ – John Baldessari

‘I’m interested in what gets us to stop and look as opposed to simply consuming images passively. If there is anything political in my work then it is to be found in the ability of my images to question the nature of imagery itself.’ – John Baldessari

Part of John Baldessari’s extraordinary and defiant oeuvre, Animal (Orange) Descending Upon Kneeling Figure (Green), 1990, is composed of two photographs: on top, the silhouette of a wolf walks along a fallen tree trunk; beneath, a man crouches on a city street corner, transformed into vulnerable prey. Characteristic of Baldessari, both the figures of animal and man are entirely blocked out, effaced by brightly coloured paint, vivid orange and striking turquoise, respectively. Baldessari has reoriented the top photograph to make it vertical, so that the trunk aligns perfectly with the cherry red mailbox below, forming a continuous bridge; the wolf’s snout points directly downwards, ready to pounce. Of his two-panel compositions, Baldessari has said, ‘I am interested in what happens when two images abut each other. It’s like when two words collide and some new word and some new meaning comes out of it’ (J. Baldessari quoted in A. Goldstein and C. Williams, ‘The Things We Sweep Under the Rug: A Conversation with John Baldessari’, John Baldessari: Life’s Balance, 1984 – 2004, exh. cat., Kunsthaus Graz, Graz, 2005, p. 81). When, in 1985, Baldessari thumbed through a folder of clippings he had labelled ‘civic portraits’, his first thought was to annihilate them into anonymity: ‘I kept thinking I ought to explore why I am so repelled by them...So when I was doing Buildings = Guns = People, I think I was a little bit worried about using someone’s face, as I didn’t want to get sued, and I didn’t know exactly where these photographs were coming from, so I used stickers I had lying around to obliterate the faces, and that felt so good, I just kept doing it’ (J. Baldessari, ‘Chronology, 1985,’ P. Pardo and R. Dean, John Baldessari: Catalogue Raisonné, Volume Three: 1987 – 1993, New York, 2015, p. 433). By pulling material from a variety of sources and eradicating any subtext or identifying visual clues, Baldessari is able to produce a secondary engagement with the image itself. Indeed, his subject is first and foremost the act of image consumption itself, at times mediated through his own textual interventions. Baldessari does not consider himself to be a political artist, but he wants ‘to get between the cracks of people’s psyches’ (J. Baldessari quoted in C. Tomkins, ‘No More Boring Art’, The New Yorker, October 18, 2010). Animal (Orange) Descending Upon Kneeling Figure (Green) is superficially understandable, and yet the action at hand is never quite discernible. Baldessari’s visual language reflects the variations and confusions of contemporary society, proposing a series of open-ended possibilities through formal and chromatic juxtapositions.

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