John Baldessari, Sprüth Magers, Los Angeles

The inaugural show of Sprüth Magers’s brand-new Los Angeles gallery space, John Baldessari, opened in late February and will run until the 9 April. Having exhibited Baldessari’s work for over 30 years, it seems only fitting that a presentation of his work would open this latest venture.

The works, created in the past year, examine the relationship between language and image, primarily through dislocation and the juxtaposing text and pictures. The playfulness of this juxtaposition seeps in and out of his work, at times in the form of gleeful defiance, as in earlier pieces such as Wrong’s (1966-68) contradiction of photographic ‘rules,’ or as a more biting criticism of an art world out of touch, with Pictures and Scripts (2014), which features still frames from black-and-white films coupled with imaginary lines from a screenplay.

This latest series of images combines seemingly mundane photographs, edited with bright blocks of colour, with similarly mundane snippets of text. The effect of these can vary. In some pieces, such as Ben’s Jacket Drapes… (2015), the phrase “BEN’S JACKET DRAPES PERFECTLY OVER HIS SHOULDER” is coupled with an utterly unconnected image of a woman in a deckchair, heavily edited by Baldessari with colour. The coupling of two completely different ‘texts’ invites the viewer to look for similarities and links between the two aspects of the piece, as well as trying to find significance in one or both of them.

In other works, however, the effect is more subtle. Hey Glen You Want To… (2015) uses the outline of an overnight bag and the phrase, “HEY GLEN YOU WANT TO COME OVER HERE FOR A MINUTE?” The suggestion of travel and the nature of the bag suggest a more direct link between image and text, and thus asks the viewer to consider the nature of this link, provided it does indeed exist.

In many ways, this exhibition represents a culmination and development for both artist and gallery. Sprüth Magers is of course no stranger to expansion, and this latest opening cements its position among American artists, particularly on the West Coast. For Baldessari, the show combines his use of block colour to edit photographs, disjointed combination of image and text, and his playful explorations of the sense and significance of language.

John Baldessari, until 9 April, Sprüth Magers, 5900 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90036.

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1. John Baldessari, Maybe the Simplest Way, 2015. Varnished inkjet print on canvas with acrylic paint. Courtesy of Sprüth Magers.