American Conceptual artist John Baldessari (b. 1931, National City, California; d. 2020, Los Angeles, California) grew up in the midst of the Great Depression. At age eighteen, he enrolled at San Diego State University (previously San Diego State College), earning both his BA in art education in 1953 and his MA in painting in 1957. After a professor of the university took leave for an illness, Baldessari served as a substitute for one term. His skill as a teacher led him to teach sporadically for the next several years, while experimenting with his own art and practice. He joined the faculty of the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, California, from 1970 to 1988, before going on to teach at the University of California at Los Angeles from 1996 to 2007. Some of his most notable students include Eric Fischl, Tony Oursler and David Salle.


Baldessari has come to be recognized as a leading pioneer of Conceptual Art, and despite the intellectualism and seriousness often associated with the practice, Baldessari often included wit and humor within his work. One of his most recognized formats is a canvas with painted text, a mode he began employing in the 1960s. His preoccupation with language largely saturated his oeuvre, which spans across a number of mediums including video, sculpture and installation.


Baldessari was the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the 2009 Venice Biennale, and United States President Barack Obama presented him with the National Medal of Arts in 2015. He has been the subject of many retrospectives, the first of which was in 1981 at the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, and, most recently, in 2010 at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (and traveled to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York). Baldessari died in January 2020 at the age of 88.