Gemini G.E.L. at Joni Moisant Weyl is pleased to present nine new screenprints by John Baldessari titled Emoji Series, on view from November 8th through January 5th. Language and communication through imagery is a longtime interest for Baldessari, as he focuses our attention on the disjunction between image, words, and their conventional meanings and usages. Emojis, small icons increasingly used as a form of electronic communication, are predominantly used in everyday digital speech by millennials. Ever focused on the future of language and its strangeness, Baldessari’s fascination with emojis is not surprising, as they are a cross between glyph, image, pictograph, and icon.
Open-ended in their usage, their meanings can be as simple as the object actually represented, or host a complex, nuanced personal or cultural interpretation. When paired with a disjointed text or title, an emoji creates a plurality of interpretations and ambiguities in communication as the viewer tries to construct meaning. Emojis are often used in place of words, or in accompaniment to words to provide ironic or humorous subtext. The admixture of image and text in modern communication has parallels to the way Baldessari adds color and form to found imagery, distorting their original purpose.
In their greatly enlarged format and through the efforts of Master Screenprinters Richard Kaz and Jeff McMane, the emojis in Baldessari’s new series retain their brilliant colors and pixelated appearance. The singular image of a fruit, vegetable or legume divorced from the context of its electronic origin forms entirely new associations with the history of art and pictorial presentation. The icons do not exist outside their digitally illuminated context, and their miniature scale makes it almost impossible to see their textural details. The transformation of the digital screen into the substructural grid of a silkscreen, it seems, is not without a sense of irony; the transfer to the physical world, on paper, is the exact reverse of the way we usually view artwork in 2018, perhaps slyly commenting on the way art is distorted through the digital medium.
John Baldessari was born in National City, California in 1931. He attended San Diego State University and did post- graduate work at Otis Art Institute, Chouinard Art Institute and the University of California at Berkeley. He taught at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, CA from 1970-1988 and the University of California at Los Angeles from 1996-2007. Baldessari's artwork has been featured in more than 200 solo exhibitions and in over 1000 group exhibitions in the U.S. and Europe. His projects include artist books, videos, films, billboards and public works. His awards and honors include the 2014 National Medal of Arts Award, an award from the International Print Center New York in 2016, memberships in the American Academy of Arts and Letters and in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Americans for the Arts Lifetime Achievement Award, the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative, the BACA International 2008, the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement, awarded by La Biennale di Venezia and the City of Goslar Kaiserring in 2012. He has received honorary degrees from the National University of Ireland, San Diego State University, Otis Art Institute of Parsons School of Design, and California College of the Arts. He currently works in Venice, California.
Recent projects include exhibitions at Sprüth Magers Gallery Los Angeles in 2016, the Städel Museum in Frankfurt, Germany in 2015, Marian Goodman Gallery London in 2015, an exhibition at the Garage Center of Contemporary Culture (Moscow, Russia) in 2013 and the 2009-2010 traveling retrospective "John Baldessari: Pure Beauty.” John Baldessari Catalogue Raisonné, Volume One: 1956-1974 was published by Yale University Press in 2012, Volume Two: 1975-1986 was released in 2014, and Volume Three: 1987-1993 was released in 2016. A collection of his writings titled, More Than You Wanted to Know About John Baldessari Volume 1 and Volume 2 was published by JRP|Ringier in 2013.