Pure Beauty

Date January 3, 2010 | Map

One week before it ended, I took the opportunity to visit John Baldessari’s exhibition Pure Beauty at Tate Modern. Most people flocked to Pop Life, which I’ve already seen, so I could enjoy less crowded exhibition rooms, although there were still more than enough people. Stupid idea, visiting Tate Modern on a Sunday.


Tate Modern logo by cyberdees via flickr.com

Anyways, as I wandered from room to room, I wondered about the title: what did all this have to do with pure beauty? Not that the work was aesthetically appalling, but focusing on details, stripping out everything but the essential and pointing out the usually unnoticed probably leads to purity, but not necessarily to beauty.

That aside, I was positively surprised by the conceptual art icon’s exhibition. With seemingly simple means, Baldessari makes you think. Perhaps not about what you want to think, but about either the works as a whole, or parts of their content, or their meaning, or what you see in them. Which can cover a very wide range of things and aspects: some works perhaps seem a little insignificant, some are disturbing and require you to articulate your moral values, and some are just entertaining and witty.

The series of photographs of him hitting various objects with a golf club (words taken from the title) are simply funny and probably provided Monty Python with inspiration, his video Six Colorful Inside Jobs is strangely entertaining in a similar way that keeps you glued (or not) to Big Brother and the like, and some of his photomontages of film stills are instantly and abruptly communicating extreme tension. Entertainment, fun, wit, impact, seriousness and depth combined, you don’t get that very often.

So what has the artist himself to say about his own retrospective? Read on for a video.

Guardian review

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