John Baldessari And Five Other Artists Use Lists In Art

John Baldessari

John Baldessari

Mel Bochner

Mel Bochner

Erica Baum

Erica Baum

The end of 2013 is just around the corner and we are in the mode of individually and collectively reflecting back on the past year and looking towards the coming year.  The List is one of the ways we do this and the practice of making lists is in full force right now.  Lists like 50 Best Albums of 2013, Top Five Artists To Watch In 2014, Highest Paid Actors/Actresses Of The Year, the classic new years resolutions lists, and so on, are everywhere.  We are obsessed with lists.  And as I personally began compiling categorical articles that are essentially lists in their own right on Beautiful Decay in 2013, covering topics like 8 Heavy Metal Artists and 6 Artists Who Work With Trash, I felt it only appropriate to finish the year with a list based article covering artists who have used the format of the list in their artworks.

In no particular order, I present: A List of Six Artists Who Make Art With Lists, including artists John Baldessari, Erica Baum, Mel Bochner, Tracey Emin, Richard Serra and Christopher Wool.

John Baldessari

John Baldessari

John Baldessari

John Baldessari

1. John Baldessari.

Baldessari is a forerunner in minimal text based works that conceptually tear at the absurdity of multiple nuances of the art market, art objects, the role of the artist and so on. His text based works from the 1970s are among my favorites, and it is fascinating how powerful these simple works on paper became for the paradigms they shifted.

Christopher Wool

Christopher Wool

Christopher Wool

Christopher Wool

2. Christopher Wool.  Though Wool’s work may not generally be viewed as lists, the way the artist itemizes each letter, deconstructing the standard spacing and fluidity of language, serves to create a choppy rhythm that is list-like.  As well, the image above of several of his works installed at the Guggenheim exemplifies how the body of works as a whole function in a monotonous formation- with ironic, crude and humorous verbiage and ideals awaiting the viewer.

Tracey Emin

Tracey Emin

Tracey Emin

Tracey Emin

3. Tracey Emin.  Emin’s work Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963-1995, created in 1995, and also known as “The Tent” is one of her most iconic works and ties together multiple tactile and conceptual elements the artist has worked with in her oeuvre.  With 102 names stitched and quilted into the work, the names acknowledge sexual partners and loved ones she shared space or a bed with, including close family members and two fetuses from earlier pregnancies. The floor of the tent reads “With Myself, Always Myself, Never Forgetting.”

Mel Bochner

Mel Bochner

Mel Bochner

Mel Bochner

4. Mel Bochner.  Bochner’s list-based works function like poetry.  Each composition is uniquely formatted and the staggering of the chosen text embeds further meaning to the subject of each list.  The artist is a master of text and editing, which makes the initial visual simplicity and bare bones of the execution of the works deceiving.  His work Portrait of Eva Hesse (Wrap) is pictured at the top of the page and demonstrates his deep understanding of the late Hesse, capturing the essence of her work in a spiraling list of descriptors.

Erica Baum

Erica Baum

Erica Baum

Erica Baum

5. Erica Baum.  Baum has a fascinating approach to making text based works, incorporating collage and photography into her process. Her card catalogue pieces are just that- culled over card catalogues, categorized, cut and pasted together and then finally photographed as one singular image.  There is a strange sense of dimension and movement to Baum’s works.

Richard Serra

Richard Serra

6. Richard Serra.  Serra is an artist who has mastered delivering monumental moments in the experience of his work.  Therefore it is terribly fitting that the work of his I include here is a list of verbs.  The doing, the movement, the action of Serra is the essence that makes his works so great.

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