John Baldessari was a central figure in the conceptual art movement of the 1960s and is widely regarded as one of the most influential artists of the last fifty years. Winner of the Golden Lion award for Lifetime Achievement at the 2009 Venice Biennale, his career has extended across a wide range of media, from paintings, photographs, videos, books, prints and multiples to sculptures and installations, creating a diverse and unique body of work. Baldessari new work for Project 23, Your Name in Lights
, was presented in partnership with the 2011 Sydney Festival and was one of the most popular projects to date. Reflecting the changing cult of celebrity in modern society, this ambitious new work drew from the imagery of Broadway theatre displays and Hollywood film to give a glittering moment of fame to around 100 000 participants.
In the 1960s and 70s, Baldessari experimented with games and actions, text paintings and photographs, to explore the language of visual culture and the relationship between image and text. In the 1970s, he began assembling images using storyboard formats and sequential frames and, in addition to his own photographs, drew from Hollywood archives of film stills, an instrumental action for the development of appropriation art.
Since the 1980s, Baldessari has cropped, enlarged and reconfigured sampled cinematic imagery, creating photo-compositions with fragmented scenes and inconclusive narratives. In the mid 80s he began to cut-out silhouettes or obscure faces with brightly coloured dots, taking the focus away from the face, while more recent works have highlighted less expressive features, such as the nose and ears, in photo-compositions and sculptures. Sculpture was also the medium for his 2010 project at the Prada Foundation in Milan, The Giacometti Variations. Exploring the relationship between art and fashion, Baldessari made interventions upon the tall, thin forms inspired by the Swiss sculptor.
The new work he created for the 23rd Kaldor Public Art Project, Your Name in Lights, continues to reveal the codes of media culture, drawing on ideas of fame in the modern world and the conflation of the roles of celebrity and artist. Using imagery taken from historic symbols of celebrity, such as Broadway neon and Hollywood lights, Baldessari gives everyone the opportunity for a sparkling but short-lived moment of fame. A supercharged variation of Andy Warhol’s prediction that in the future everyone will have their 15 minutes, Your Name in Lights lasts for just 15 seconds.