John Baldessari - Hands & Feet

Gemini G.E.L.
Oct 5, 2017 4:42PM

Gemini G.E.L. is pleased to present Hands & Feet, a new series of eight screenprints by John Baldessari. Over a span of 26 years Baldessari has steadily collaborated with Gemini G.E.L., prolifically utilizing the printmaking medium to playfully reference art history, explore themes of appropriation, repetition, the power of language, and the narrative potential in images.

Known for using found, mass-produced source imagery, Baldessari recomposes carefully selected pictures, sometimes pairing them with text and often overlaying them with large dots and swaths of color to mask or bring attention to areas of detail. Having experimented with different methods of working for previous editions, Hands & Feet is a full circle return to the techniques employed by the artist in his very first series of Gemini prints, published in 1991. Much like the first series, which also incorporated tightly cropped selections from film images and newspaper sources, text is physically absent from the Hands & Feet works. But in the artist’s typical impish style, he’s communicating with a different form of language: one of gestures. In all eight pieces there are only two human faces – one obscured by a washed out white dot and the other cropped to the corners, the emotive sources of reference on the face (eyebrows, corners of the mouth) falling just outside the frame. Our attention is therefore directed at the gestures being made by various hands and feet which – voluntary and subconsciously -- convey as much as verbal or written language. What we do with our hands and how we present our bodies is an integral part of social interaction, informing others of (and giving a clue to) internal feelings and affecting social outcomes. Inferences of emotional states can be made based on the perceived posture or signal made: arms and fists up = a universal expression for success, of winning -- a hand outward = indicates desire -- the clenching of knees = discomfort.

Baldessari reveals just enough of an image to establish the setting, cropping his material deliberately and hiding recognizable features. By choosing moments where the viewer can almost piece together the before-and-after scenes, pinnacles of intrigue, victory, possibility, each images is a singular moment of tension or action. Will the drink fall on her striking silk dress, or is she the one who has tossed the drink? Will he catch the ball and strike out the home team, or miss it and lose it all? Individually the eight scenes are seemingly obscure and virtually unrelated, however when examined together moments of repetition are apparent (if not blatant) in subject, shape, and overall composition. Formally, Baldessari also not only acknowledges the Ben-day dot, dither or moiré pattern that makes up his source material, but enhances and magnifies it. Get close enough and the image is almost indiscernible, allowing the viewer to get lost amongst the dancing dots. On piecing together meaning for his work, the artist says “For me there is an image junk pile, and I’m a scavenger. Images are like random words that one might cull from a dictionary, and I’m trying to put them back together in some way, reassembling them.”

Gemini G.E.L.