… That while life goes on (sometimes banal, sometimes dramatic) there is always something else going on that we cannot quite understand or identify …
This is from ‘The Vanitas Series’ (1981) found in More Than You Wanted to Know About John Baldessari Vol. 2 (2013):
… Perhaps I fear that meaning is fleeing words and images in modern life. I believe that making something beautiful is like learning to drive. After one learns how to drive, one should concentrate on where to go. I want to use beauty to convey meaning and the problems of conveying meaning.
From ‘Notebook Entries to Myself for Work that Is Not Yet’ (1986):
… Draw a focal point (life source, navel of world). Add four quadrants (as the pillars that hold up the sky?) and what emerges is a Constantine cross. Art should be like this. Things set into motion and things happening inevitably and as a wonderful surprise.
… Is Joyce right when he writes of the highest art being static — that it is beyond desire. Porn art and didactic art moves us, are non-static. If I place a color photo of a patch of skin next to an equal size of canvas covered with flesh-colored paint, does this provide an answer, or by synthesis a new question.
… The focus question. Why are most photos “in focus”? This is considered desirable, generally. A Right. Why is “out of focus” generally Wrong? Invert the priority. It is a biological fear of blindness that makes us prefer the former. Yet lack of sight makes acute the other senses. Would this happen by viewing out of focus photos?
… Ulysses, tapping he head, said, “It is here I must kill the king.” How to get rid of the temple guard that lets some thoughts in; turns away others.
From ‘Termites Within a Find Oak Chair’ (The Vienna Pieces)’ (1986-87)
… The intended effect of these works is that they be paradoxical. That while life goes on (sometimes banal, sometimes dramatic) there is always something else going on that we cannot quite understand or identify — get a grasp on. A sense of false security or the calm before the storm. Termites within a fine oak chair. Skating on thin ice. The solid world as flux. The possibility of evil. The deferring of desire. The brooding enigma of good and bad.
Finally, from ‘Photography Changes What Artists Do’ (2011):
… If I make a picture a guessing game, I might capture your attention for a little bit longer. There is a hierarchy of vision that I’m interested in attacking and breaking down. If you look at a photograph of people in a room, you’re going to look at their faces first. You’re not going to look at a book that’s on a table. What I try to do is make you look at the book on the table.
… My goal has always been to attack conventions of seeing. The work is about seeing the world askew. Remember the old Charles Addams cartoon, where all you see are people sitting in a theater audience and everyone has a horrified expression on their face, except for one guy who’s grinning and laughing? I often think that guy is me.