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.