Selected works by John Baldessari

John Baldessari
Beethoven's Trumpet (With Ear) Opus # 133


Resin, fibreglass, bronze, aluminium, and electronics

186 x 183 x 267 cm
John Baldessari’s practice explores ideas around communication. Some of his signature works are conceptual juxtapositions of text and images that demonstrate the enormous associative power of language in the way that art is interacted with and understood. His works have paired statements with found photographs to humorously exploit the game-like way in which narrative can be arbitrarily created by language and visuals.

Beethoven’s Trumpet (With Ear) Opus # 133 (2007) is a large-scale work about the paradox of communication’s incomplete nature – a sculptural sound piece about a deaf composer. It was one of the artist’s first sculptures. “I was asked to do a retrospective show in 2007 in Bonn with all the works I’d done about music. Bonn is the birthplace of Beethoven and I visited his house and he had a whole cabinet of ear trumpets that he used. I was really fascinated with them as sculptural forms, especially one that he had designed himself that I thought was quite beautiful. And then for maybe four or five years I’ve been doing these works about body parts and I think it started out with noses and ears, so ears were on my mind. And then probably there was one of those three o’clock in the morning moments when you are awake and all of a sudden I thought, ‘wait a minute – ear/ear trumpet’.”

Baldessari’s epiphany and Magritte-like montage of associations creates a piece highlighting how meaning is created through senses beyond the traditionally privileged one, vision – the work is silent until the viewer speaks into the trumpet at which point a section from Beethoven’s six last quartets will be heard.

But if this is Beethoven’s deaf ear, is the meaning of what is said even connected to the sound that will be heard, and what does the randomness of the fragments indicate? The paradox of communication is once again left up to the viewer to resolve.

Other Resources
Additional images and information – John Baldessari
Additional images and information – John Baldessari
The artist’s website – a fully comprehensive website with information on all exhibitions, up to date biography, interviews and many images
Sprueth Magers, London - Representing gallery in the UK
The Tate Modern: John Baldessari: Pure Beauty 13 October 2009 – 10 January 2010
John Baldessari studied at San Diego State College, U.C. Berkeley, UCLA, the Otis Art Institute, and the Chouinard Art Institute. Baldessari received an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts in 2000 from the Otis Art Institute, an honorary Ph.D. from San Diego State University, San Diego, California in 2003, and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2004.
American artist John Baldessari rose to prominence in the late 1960s combining Pop Art’s use of imagery from the mass media with Conceptual Art’s use of language to create a unique body of work that has become a hallmark of postmodern art.