Hirshhorn Plaza

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Media only:
Gabriel Einsohn (202) 633-2822 or einsohng@si.edu
Public only:
(202) 633-1000

The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden has invited John Baldessari to be the first artist to organize an installation using works drawn from the museum’s holdings. Offering the public new perspectives on the Hirshhorn’s renowned collection of modern and contemporary art, “Ways of Seeing: John Baldessari Explores the Collection” will be on view from July 26 through 2007 and is located in the lower level galleries. In addition to the artist’s installation of the collection, four early works by Baldessari, recently given to the Hirshhorn, will be on view along with additional key early works by the artist from other institutions. John Baldessari will speak about his work and experience with the “Ways of Seeing” project at the Hirshhorn Museum on September 28.

The Hirshhorn developed “Ways of Seeing,” an on-going project that invites noted visual artists, authors and filmmakers to create installations from the Hirshhorn’s collection of modern and contemporary art, as part of its commitment to the art and artists of our time.

“Having Baldessari collaborate with us on this project allows Hirshhorn visitors to experience our collection through the lens of this artist’s vision and process,” says chief curator Kerry Brougher. These continuing presentations will offer fresh perspectives and a diverse range of viewpoints that encourage visitors to see the Hirshhorn’s collection in new ways.

For “Ways of Seeing,” Baldessari selected a wide range of works — from the height of modernism to contemporary pieces — some of which have not been on view for decades. Included in the installation are paintings by Milton Avery, Philip Guston and Thomas Eakins, photography (also by Eakins) and sculpture by Emily Kaufman. In past interviews Baldessari has described his art as being about “betweenness.” He said, “I’m concerned with what happens between things and ideas.” The artist brings this thought process to his exploration of the Hirshhorn’s collection.

In the late 1960s, Baldessari abandoned traditional painting and embarked on an exploration of the way visual images establish and represent meaning. Since that time, the artist has produced canvases executed by sign painters that contain text describing the processes of exhibiting and evaluating art, sequences of photographs that raise questions about human perception, and videos and mixed media works that investigate the associations people connect with images and words.

The Hirshhorn Museum’s recent acquisition of works by the artist include: “Exhibiting Paintings” (1967–1968); “Songs 1: Sky/Sea/Sand” (1973); “Cremation Project, Corpus Wafers (With Text, Recipe and Documentation” (1970) and “Blasted Allegories (Black and White Sentence): Red To What Is Red All Over And Black And White” (1978). These works are the first by the artist to enter the museum’s collection and were given by The Glenstone Foundation.

Baldessari, born in California in 1931, taught at the California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, Calif. from 1970 to 1988 and has been at the University of California, Los Angeles since 1996. He has had more than 120 solo exhibitions worldwide and was the recipient of a lifetime achievement award by Americans for the Arts in 2005. He organized exhibitions from the permanent collections of The Museum of Modern Art, New York in 1994 and The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles in 1991.

The artist and chief curator Kerry Brougher, who has known and worked with the artist for many years, will discuss Baldessari’s work and the “Ways of Seeing” project at Meet the Artist: John Baldessari on September 28 at 7 p.m. in the Ring Auditorium. Seats are limited and are available on a first-come basis. Download a free Podcast of Baldessari speaking about his work at www.hirshhorn.si.edu. “Ways of Seeing: John Baldessari Explores the Collection” is made possible by the Hirshhorn’s Board of Trustees and contributions to the Hirshhorn’s Annual Circle.

About the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the Smithsonian’s museum of international modern and contemporary art, includes more than 11,500 paintings, sculptures, film, video, mixedmedia installations and works on paper. The museum maintains an active exhibition program and offers an array of free public programs that explore the art of our time. The Hirshhorn, located at Independence Avenue and Seventh Street S.W., is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25), and admission is free.
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