I Will Not Make Any More Boring Art

John Baldessari American

Not on view

In 1970 the California artist John Baldessari erased his own training as a painter in a single spectacular gesture: by burning all his canvases from 1953 to 1966 at a San Diego crematorium, baking the ashes into cookies, and displaying them at the Museum of Modern Art, New York as part of its landmark exhibition Information. Freed from the formal preoccupations and traditions of painting, Baldessari instead turned to a range of new media and creative approaches, from video to hybrid text and photo-based works.

His wry videos of the early 1970s use deadpan humor and simple gestures to underscore the modernist notion that any action can be considered an artwork. Such a belief was central to the Conceptual art movement of the late-1960s and 1970s, which privileged ideas, language, and actions over the production of physical objects. Baldessari’s work, deployed with characteristic wit, became synonymous with Conceptualism, even after the movement became more associated with "dematerialization," that is, with documents, ideas, language, and processes rather than material things.

I Will Not Make Any More Boring Art elevates a form of educational discipline to a work of art. In 1971, in response to an invitation from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design to exhibit his work, Baldessari instead sent a letter proposing a "punishment piece" to be executed by the college’s art students. He instructed the students to write "I will not make any more boring art" repeatedly on the gallery walls. This simple, mundane task, itself a boring action, purposefully mocked the imitative system of art education by using a pedagogical tool to instill the value, instead, of experimentation. Using language on a wall (a space typically reserved for painting) and other performers as the artist’s surrogate denounced the limitations of conventional forms of art making and declared the arrival of a new, conceptual mode of artistic practice. After the performance in the galleries, Baldessari produced this version of the piece on videotape on a Portapak video recorder borrowed from the California Institute of the Arts, where he was then a faculty member. Indeed, aside from the artist’s significance to the nascent field of video art, Baldessari was also a legendary teacher at CalArts (1970–1988) and UCLA’s Department of Art (1996–2005), where he influenced generations of art students.

I Will Not Make Any More Boring Art, John Baldessari (American, National City, California 1931–2020 Los Angeles), Single-channel digital video, transferred from video tape, black-and-white, sound, 31 min., 17 sec.

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