Artwork Detail

Two Compositions (Formal/Informal; Interior/Exterior)
American, b. 1931
Color photographs and vinyl paint
96 1/4 x 68 1/8 x 1 3/8 "
University purchase, Charles H. Yalem Art Fund, 1992
WU 1992.11 a-b
John Baldessari
Conceptual artist John Baldessari is renowned for his work featuring images appropriated from mass media sources such as movies, advertisements, and stock photography. In this vertically stacked diptych, the artist juxtaposed two thematically congruous yet unrelated found images: one, of an elegant dinner party, is placed atop another, of a more casual group of diners seated outdoors at a poolside table. Employing methods of appropriation and deletion, Baldessari challenges common pictorial codes that denote class, social hierarchies, and rank. In the top image, the faces of the diners are obliterated by circles of monochromatic paint; in the lower image, entire bodies are covered over with gray pigment. These cancellations render each figure anonymous, shifting focus away from the individuality of the human subjects to the objects littering the surrounding spaces. At the same time, attention is drawn to how details such as gazes, body language, and dress function as markers of identity, meaning, and social class. [Permanent collection label, 2011]