John Baldessari, Changing People's Minds (Happy Birthday!)

Jun 17, 2013 4:17PM

"I'm always interested in things that we don't call art. What could I do this to make it art? How could I change people's minds?" —John Baldessari, from the Art21 Season 5 episode, Systems

Happy birthday today (June 17) to artist John Baldessari. Art21 first filmed with the artist in 2008 for Season 5 of Art21's Art in the Twenty-First Century series.

Synthesizing photomontage, painting, and language, Baldessari's deadpan visual juxtapositions equate images with words and illuminate, confound, and challenge meaning. He upends commonly held expectations of how images function, often by drawing the viewers attention to minor details, absences, or the spaces between things.

"One of the underlying themes of my work over the years is trying to figure out the difference between a part and a whole," says Baldessari in a 2009 episode from Art21's Exclusive series. "I never quite get it right because a part can become a whole, and a whole can become a part, and back and forth."

Additional videos featuring the artist, including the full episode from Season 5 (2009) of Art21's PBS-broadcast series, Art in the Twenty-First Century, are available on

IMAGES: Works by John Baldessari included as part of an exhibition of selections from the Broad Collection at LACMA, 2008. Production stills from the Art in the Twenty-First Century Season 5 episode, Systems, 2009. Artwork © John Baldessari. Production stills © Art21, Inc. 2009.