“The godfather of conceptual art,” John Baldessari is widely considered a historical giant in the contemporary art world, known for rearranging found images and texts - forcing one to wonder how, and what exactly, the images are communicating.
Appropriately, when Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman ofSupermarché (the pair behind 2010’s much buzzed about documentary, Catfish) set out to create a small look into John Baldessari’s life and career, they turned the conventional profile documentary format on its head. Instead, Baldessari’s immense career has been compressed into six amazing (and somewhat disorienting) minutes, as Joost and Schulman jump between mundane images of Baldessari’s everyday life, jumbled narrative, and a playful back-and-forth between Baldessari and the story’s faceless narrator - the deep grizzled voice of Tom Waits (requested specifically by Baldessari).
The film, from start to finish, is a playful and clever sendup to the self-aware artist’s signature tongue-in-cheek tone, and it’s more than worth its short six minutes of play time. I love the jumping details of Baldessari’s life - the shots of pencils, the peep holes, the “this is John Baldessari waving goodbye.”