Movie stills and Miró: John Baldessari goes to Hollywood for his latest London survey

Large, white gallery space with a white pillar and four pieces of artwork
John Baldessari's new show at Marian Goodman juxtaposes film stills with Joan Miró paintings. Photography: Thierry Bal. Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York, Paris & London
(Image credit: Thierry Bal)

John Baldessari and Marian Goodman are long-time collaborators. Though this is only his second show with Goodman's London outpost, the 85-year-old American art icon has had over a dozen shows with the gallery internationally since 1990.

His new survey comprises 25 movie stills, each paired with an unrelated Joan Miró painting. A seemingly random word – ‘Apropos’, ‘True’, ‘Unfailing’ – is printed across the bottom.

Black and white photograph of people on a snowy mountain with a vibrant blue detail, above a painting featuring coloured geometrical shapes

'Right', by John Baldessari, 2016. Photography: Joshua White

(Image credit: Joshua White)

Making things even trickier to decipher, Baldessari is keeping the names of the original films close to his chest. You'd have to be a serious buff to recognise them all (or any), particularly with large sections blocked out by thick blobs of colourful paint, in Baldessari-bright blues, greens and reds.

Gallery director Valerie Blair confirms that we're not wrong in thinking that the exhibition teems with classic Baldessari wit and absurdity. 'The works are imbued with John’s typical sense of humour – making puns, playing with the relationship between words and images, pop culture and high culture.'

Black and white photograph with coloured details, above a painting with coloured geometrical shapes

'Reliable', by John Baldessari, 2016. Photography: Joshua White

(Image credit: Joshua White)

It's far from nonsensical, though. Blair notes something many of the private-view goers probably missed, whilst lunging for a mini hotdog or other such American-themed canapes – that the title of each work is a synonym of another. 'Necessary' and 'Incumbent', for instance. With this in mind, the exhibition becomes a conundrum that the viewers must work out. Baldessari, in Blair's opinion, is asking 'viewers to respond in their own way and to create their own new composite meaning'. In traditional Baldessari style, it's not the meaning, but the figuring out that's important.

Two colourful paintings hang in a white gallery

A 'random' word is printed below each set of works

(Image credit: TBC)

Three colourful paintings hang in a white gallery

The title of each work is a synonym of another

(Image credit: TBC)


'Miró and Life In General' is on view until 25 February. For more information, visit the Marian Goodman website


5-8 Lower John Street
London W1F 9DY


Elly Parsons is the Digital Editor of Wallpaper*, where she oversees and its social platforms. She has been with the brand since 2015 in various roles, spending time as digital writer – specialising in art, technology and contemporary culture – and as deputy digital editor. She was shortlisted for a PPA Award in 2017, has written extensively for many publications, and has contributed to three books. She is a guest lecturer in digital journalism at Goldsmiths University, London, where she also holds a masters degree in creative writing. Now, her main areas of expertise include content strategy, audience engagement, and social media.