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Wrong, 1966—68

John Baldessari

Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Contemporary Art Council (M.71.40)

Photoemulsion with acrylic on canvas, 59 x 45 in.

A pioneer of Conceptual art, John Baldessari worked at a time during which the object was in disrepute and ideas reigned. His exploration of language questions the very nature of communication, a subject that grows more complex with each technological advance. In Wrong, an early and pivotal example of Conceptualism, Baldessari is photographed with a palm tree seemingly growing out of his head (a well-known error in photographic composition). The title Wrong is meant to refer to multiple types of “wrongness” and also be ironic: a basic tenet of Modern art and the avant-garde is that there are no inviolable rules or universal standards when it comes to making, conceiving, or judging art. As Baldessari explained, “I loved the idea that somebody would just say that this is right and this is wrong. So I decided I would have . . . a work of art that was wrong—which seemed right to me.”

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