'I was asked to do a retrospective show in 2007 in Bonn with all the works I had done about music. Bonn is the birthplace of Beethoven and I visited his house and he had a whole cabinet of ear trumpets that he used. I was really fascinated with them as sculptural forms, especially one that he had designed himself that I thought was quite beautiful. And then for maybe four or five years I've been doing these works about body parts and I think it started out with noses and ears, so ears were on my mind. And then probably there was one of those three o'clock in the morning moments when you are awake and all of a sudden I thought, 'wait a minute--ear/ear trumpet.''
Executed in 2007 on a monumental scale, Beethoven's Trumpet (With Ear) Opus #133 meditates upon the power of language and the paradoxical nature of communication. This anthropomorphic work is one of John Baledssari's first ever sculptures and masterfully celebrates the work of Rene Magritte through a montage of associations: an ear in concert with a trumpet. Meticulously crafted in scintillating, richly patinated bronze playfully juxtaposed with chalky white fiberglass, two years before Baldassari won the Golden Lion for lifetime achievement at the Venice Biennale, this strikingly rendered sculpture reaps the benefits of this fruitful moment in the artist's career.
The colossal, shimmering trumpet ebulliently projects like an explosion of form and color from the immense human ear, engulfing the viewer and inviting interaction. The stoic, silent nature of the work is interrupted when the viewer speaks into the trumpet at which point a section from Beethoven's six last quartets ring out jubilantly. Herein lies the paradox of this extraordinary work of art, for this is a sound piece about a deaf composer. Rather strikingly it illuminates the notion that meaning is created beyond the privileged sense of vision, indulging the viewer's senses in a rich orchestral display of sound, touch and materiality.