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Themesicon: navigation pathArt and Cinematographyicon: navigation pathBaldessari
City Postcard Painting (Baldessari, John), 1971

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to capture less, not more: postcards, flip books, a Christmas card, buttons, a thermometer, or an egg timer. It was a small world, after all. And the growing affordability of air travel made it seem even smaller. It exposed Middle America to the stultifying paradox of tourism, in which the tourist unwittingly transported his ideological props wherever he went. In an expansive spirit, the California Institute of the Arts, where Baldessari taught for so many years, launched its «post-studio» art program. Instead of withering away, however, leaving its occupant to consort with the world at large, Baldessari’s studio shrank to the size of a desktop.

2. The Super 8 Films

In his Super-8s, Baldessari seeks out small, flat surfaces and vestigial signs of mark making. Often, an anonymous hand manipulates the objects that fall on screen. Thus, Baldessari’s lens brings some of the old concerns of Action Painting into fresh focus. The films, in their own way, are educational—which is to say slightly didactic, like filmstrips. The points they make are simple, so these films are concise, typically less than three


minutes. In «New York City Art History» (1971) the camera takes close-ups of colored cards and art history illustrations paraded through the streets of Soho. Views of pedestrians and traffic flood in between cards and around their edges. This juxtaposition seemingly reflects the art historical process itself. Artworks as icons lose their ability to alter the way viewers see—that instead is the capacity of less codified art. In «New York Green Postcard #2»(1971) and «City Postcard Painting» an incessant brush blots out the picturesque views featured in a series of postcards. Here, New York School Painting would seem to be the discursive subject. The panoramic views suggest a monumental scale (much like Oldenburg’s proposed monuments), but one nonetheless circumscribed by the postcards on which they are printed. The drama of self-confrontation through paint becomes a souvenir, too. Even so, the painting in question is as good as any other. Gertrude Stein once said she loved all kinds of painting, just so long as it was paint on a surface. Similarly, Baldessari says—in line with John Cage—that anywhere you point the camera is a composition. The

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