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Picasso: Works Entering the Public Domain in 2019
Pablo Picasso: Lives and Loves
John Baldessari: The Conceptual Explorer
Display Thousands of Museum-Quality Artworks in Your Home or Office

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John Baldessari: The Conceptual Explorer

“I think when I’m doing art,” Baldessari once reflected, “I’m questioning how to do it.” That wasn’t the case when he started out. At the beginning, he was just plain perplexed. It was the early 1950s, and he was studying in California. He majored in art, minored in literature, but by the end of his college degree he felt he was no nearer understanding how to be an artist. How to do it? He decided he needed more training. He needed to follow the same path that artists had traversed before him – acquiring technique and professionalism. So he mastered more styles; he started to paint like those he admired, Matisse and Cézanne; he mastered yet more styles; he became confused. He decided to drive out daily to the cliffs of La Jolla and paint whatever inspired him. Surely, this would force inspiration. It didn’t.

You could say that success only finally came to Baldessari when he accepted failure. When he decided to stop training, stop straining to be an artist. It was around that time, while teaching night school, that he came across a sheet of advice on how to become an artist. Realizing, from his own experience, how absurd that very general advice was, he thought that he might put these cliché ideas to work in an even more absurd and direct way. With that in mind, he made text-paintings such as Tips for Artists Who Want to Sell (1966-8). He then began to wonder if, maybe, art could be about the everyday, about the radically simple.

Perhaps art could be – had to be – ordinary, if it was to continue to matter. So he began to take photographs from the window of his car – driving with one hand, shooting pictures with the other. He transferred the images to canvas and coupled them with simple texts. One picture, Econ-O-Wash (1967-8) shows a car wash glimpsed through passing traffic; below it reads “Econ–O-Wash. 14th and Highland. National City California.” Perhaps art could be made with the slightest of gestures: the video piece I Am Making Art (1971) shows the artist reciting the titular phrase as he makes nothing more than a series of simple arm movements. Perhaps art could be just, well, pointing at things: the painter Al Held had once remarked that that was all Conceptual Art amounted to, so Baldessari responded with a series of paintings in which fingers point, enigmatically, at objects. Perhaps art could be a matter of gathering up the images in the world and rearranging them – for aren’t there already enough images, without artists adding more? And that, in a sense, has been Baldessari’s belief since the late 1970s and 1980s, when he started to make the photo-works for which he is now best known.

Of course, Baldessari wasn’t unique in coming to these realizations when he did. An extraordinary number of artists were doing so – separately, and internationally – in the early 1960s, as Conceptual art began to emerge. Artists were coming to see that the modern art that had once been controversial and critical had now become mainstream, absorbed into museums and galleries, sapped of its force. There was a need to return to first principles – in fact, there was a need to work out what those principles were in the first place. It was time, as Baldessari puts it, to question “how to do it.”

A common, frustrated response to some Conceptual art like Baldessari’s is to ask a similar question: “Is that it?” Surely, art should offer more than arm gestures and Econ-O-Washes? It’s not a philistine response, it’s a fair one, because such simple artworks are precisely intended to provoke and frustrate. They are intended to do all those things that modern paintings and sculptures once did. The question is fair, also, because that sharp provocation has lost its edge over time, smoothed over as we’ve become accustomed to being needled in this way. Now we look back even on those early and revolutionary Conceptual artworks and feel that they are no better than some of the lazier offerings that lesser artists have brought to us since. So, although worrying over who came first rarely helps us to see what truly matters in the history of art, it does in the case of the powerful provocations made by early Conceptual artists such as Baldessari. He was among the first to carry out that generation’s gleeful house-clearing, the first to trash all those dusty store-room ideas about what art should be and what it should look like.


And to take that other, classic, frustrated response to Conceptual art, “But couldn’t anyone do that?” the answer is “Yes indeed.” That’s the point. When Baldessari came to realize that so many of the skills he had acquired in college were of little use in making art for today, he gave us all the wonderful possibility of believing that we too, untrained and untutored, could make something that deserves to be called art. So why don’t we? Firstly, there is the obvious point that art is harder than great artists make it seem: it takes effort to look effortless. Secondly, there is the sadder fact that, if Conceptual art was a kind of war against the institutional nature of the art world, the art world won the war because generally, one still needs to follow the same old paths to be taken seriously as a professional, exhibiting artist. But, thirdly, and finally, perhaps there is no reason why we don’t – perhaps we ought to try.

More on John Baldessari  and Conceptual Art – The Art Story Artist and Movement Pages

Display Thousands of Museum-Quality Artworks in Your Home or Office

Electronic frames have been around for a long time, and most of us have used them to display hundreds of pictures of family and friends in a single ‘picture frame’ in our living room or a dresser in our bedroom. But have you ever thought about using an electronic frame to display quality artwork on your wall?

The main problem with electronic frames that display artwork is quality. A typical frame is great for your family photos, but it is too small, and the displays are of insufficient quality to effectively display most works of art. This is particularly true for modern art, where small gradations of color and texture are not incidental, but express the essence of the piece.

Turn your wall into a museum

Potentially, an electronic frame can make your walls more interesting and stimulate your visual senses with rotating images featuring a single artist, school or genre, or juxtaposing different artists or genres in creative ways. In essence, you could enjoy the benefits of a museum visit every day, right in your home.



Welcome to the New Generation of Electronic Frames

We all know that display technology has advanced, and that today’s wide screen TV’s and computer monitors allow us to watch movies at home that rival the local cinema.

The same technology that drives movie quality displays makes it possible for a photo frame to be large, flat, and display high-resolution images that can do justice to the nuances of almost any piece of artwork.

The Art Story Partnership with Meural

Meural is a leading pioneer in developing electronic frames specifically designed to display high quality images of fine art on your wall. In fact, they developed TrueArtTM technology, a proprietary blend of hardware, firmware, and software designed to render each image as lifelike and textured as gallery art.

The display screen itself is only a small part of what is required to properly showcase artwork. The Meural Canvas also has features such as a built-in light sensor to adjust each image to match the room’s lighting, an anti-glare matte display that deflects light and amplifies the color of the artwork, and gesture controls that allow you to browse through your artwork and learn about each piece with a wave of your hand.

You can own the Meural Canvas at a discount of $50 by using the discount code “THEARTSTORY” on the order page of Meural’s website. Each purchase will also benefit The Art Story foundation, allowing us to continue to develop new content on TheArtStory.org

More about The Art Story Partnership with Meural:

Become a Superhuman via Art Exercises (and Marina Abramović)

Part I: The Background

Over the course of her performance art career, Marina Abramović developed a signature method of techniques that would allow her to reach a higher plane of consciousness required for grueling, endurance-based work. She researched various spiritual and cultural realms, oftentimes spending time with people such as the aboriginal tribes of Australia or Chinese Buddhists. Her learning lent Marina a superhuman sensibility that included the ability to sit for hours on end without moving, to conjure laser sharp focus while spending extended periods of time in repetitive action, or to withstand intense self-inflicted pain.

In The Artist is Present, 2013, she employed the culmination of a career’s worth of her method to be able to sit physically present over many days while still intimately connecting with each and every person who came to sit with her. Although she was physically exhausted and mentally depleted by the end of the performance, viewers had no visible hint of her suffering throughout the piece.

Marina coined her practices the Abramović Method, an exploration of being present in both time and space, incorporating exercises that center on breath, motion, stillness and concentration. She has since shared it via workshops with both aspiring artists and non-artists looking to reach a higher plane of existence.

Part II: The Logic of The Method

Abramović has described the steps as follows: For each workshop, I would take between twelve and twenty-five students outdoors, always to a place that was neither too cold nor too hot, never uncomfortable, and, while we fasted for three to five days, drinking only water and herbal teas, and refraining from speaking, we would do various exercises.

Some examples:

  • BLINDFOLD: Leave home and go to the forest, where you are blindfolded, then try to find your way back home. Like a blind person, an artist needs to learn to see with his or her whole body.
  • LONG WALK IN LANDSCAPE: Start walking from a given point, proceeding in a straight line through the landscape for four hours. Rest, then return along the same route.
  • WALKING BACKWARD: Walk backwards for four hours, while holding a mirror in your hand. Observe reality as a reflection.
  • FEELING ENERGY: With your eyes closed, extend your hands in front of you toward another participant. Never touching the other person, move you hands around different areas of their body for one hour, feeling their energy.
  • SLOW-MOTION EXERCISE: For the entire day, do everything very slowly: walking, drinking water, showering. Peeing in slow motion is very difficult, but try.
    Toward Our Center:

Part III: Toward Our Center:
Abramović Discusses Presence and Purpose

Part IV: The Abramović Method in Action

Abramović has held workshops from Athens to Sydney, called Marina Abramović: In Residence where she mentors young artists in an intensive two-week program, which culminates in a group show where the artists use what they learned in the Abramović Method.

Here is Abramović describing her method at the Australian workshop: link

A Sample Lesson For You:

By creating her signature method and sharing it with the public, Marina has evolved her work as a performance artist into one of a great teacher. She has spent a career using her body as a medium and now she asks others to consider using theirs to become fully present in their own lives and to embrace the empowerment that results both on an individual level and as part of a connected humanity at large.

Through her MAI Institute, Abramović continues to spread these principles through collaborations with artists and cultural organizations and to groups and individuals looking to benefit personally from her knowledge.

Further Info:
More on The Marina Abramović Institute
The life and art of Marina Abramović  (on The Art Story)