Since the 1970s, the artist's use of photography has taken many different forms, with the constant through-line being his signature wit and critical voice. All of the the works in Master of Appropriation contain found photographs, including vintage film stills, news images, and fashion runway photos that Baldessari collected and reconfigured into new compositions and narratives.
The artist’s playful repurposing of these images, often accompanied by text or combined with painting and printmaking techniques, reveals that a photograph’s meaning is never static and instead is tied intrinsically to its context.
John Baldessari was born in National City, California in 1931. He received his Bachelor of Arts in 1953 from San Diego State College. After a year of advanced art history studies at the University of California, Berkley, Baldessari returned to San Diego State College where he received his Master of Arts in Painting in 1957. He proceeded to engage in post-graduate work at Chouinard Art Institute and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Baldessari taught at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, CA from 1970-1988 and UCLA from 1996-2007.
Baldessari's artwork has been featured in more than 300 solo exhibitions and in over 1000 group exhibitions in the U.S. and Europe. His projects include unique works, prints, artist books, videos, films, billboards and public works. His awards and honors include the 2014 National Medal of Arts Award, an award from the International Print Center New York in 2016, memberships in the American Academy of Arts and Letters and in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Americans for the Arts Lifetime Achievement Award, the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative, the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement, awarded by La Biennale di Venezia, the City of Goslar Kaiserring in 2012, and the BACA International 2008. He has received honorary degrees from the National University of Ireland, San Diego State University and Otis Art Institute of Parsons School of Design. Baldessari passed away on Thursday, January 2, 2020 in his Venice, CA home.