In Still Life 2001-2010 invites you to create your own still life by arranging any or all of the 38 objects onscreen.
“When someone completes their own still life using In Still Life 2001-2010 it becomes their own artwork,” says artist John Baldessari. “It’s not mine. It’s theirs. Still lifes are about the fleeting things in life. Each object has a symbolic meaning attached to it. My interest in still lifes goes back to beginning art courses and having to endlessly paint from them. There was always a room where the instructors stored all the props. And the one prop I hated was the cow skull, which an old instructor of mine, a Georgia O’Keeffe fan, used to always trot out. But of course the typical objects are things like the guitar, the wine bottle, the loaf of bread, which are not so interesting. Even now it’s very hard for me to look at one of those typical Braque or Picasso still lifes and not want to rearrange it! I just want to make it a little more upbeat, a little more dynamic and less static. I chose Banquet Still Life (1667) for the original In Still Life because I wanted to use a typical 17th-century Dutch still life. The lobster is the most important object in the painting. I’m just anticipating everyone trying to make the lobster dance.”
John Baldessari created the first In Still Life in 2001 for an exhibition at LACMA. He hung Abraham van Beyeren’s Banquet Still Life on the wall next to an empty frame and invited exhibition visitors to digitally rearrange or remove the 38 objects in the original 17th-century Dutch painting, thus creating a new still life of their own. Visitors were encouraged to print out their still lifes and hang them in the room or take them home. When someone completed a still life using In Still Life, it became his or her own artwork, not John Baldessari’s or Abraham van Beyeren’s artwork.
Born in National City, California, in 1931, John Baldessari is an artist whose innovative combination of text and image, along with his witty, rigorous approach to teaching, has influenced generations of artists. In more than 200 solo exhibitions and numerous books, films, videos and public works, John Baldessari has continually poked holes in the boundaries of art, slyly and confidently asking questions about life, pictures and language. He lives and works in Santa Monica, California.