John Baldessari, RIP (Plus a Brief Chat With Analia Saban About Her Friend and Mentor)

by Christopher Blay January 12, 2020


John Baldessari, the painter and conceptual artist, and both literally and figuratively a giant of the art world, died on January 2. His legacy will live on in the artists and students he inspired, mentored, and befriended over the decades. One of those former students, conceptual artist Analia Saban, was also a friend of Baldessari’s, and in an brief interview with Glasstire, shared these memories of him:

Glasstire: Analia, I saw your post on Instagram, which was a photograph of you and the late Baldessari holding up peace signs. Tell me about that picture.

Analia Saban: In this photo he came to see my last show in Los Angeles at Sprüth Magers. He never missed a student or a colleague’s show, even if that meant traveling outside LA.
GT:When did your friendship begin?
AS: John was my professor at the MFA program at UCLA from 2002 to 2005. I first took a group crit class then a one-on-one tutorial. He was the most supportive mentor one can wish for. Always encouraging us to go deeper in our ideas, teaching us to believe that what we had to say mattered.
GT: Your work has a similar conceptual wit and restraint as Baldessari’s. What kinds of conversations did you have about these points of connection?
AS: As a professor he always reminded us that we could do whatever we wanted or as he said, “whatever we could get away with.” There are no limitations. We are the ones that should be defining art and not the other way around. But he also emphasized that “talent is cheap.” We had to take it seriously and approach our work with discipline.
GT: How should Baldessari be remembered?
AS: As a brilliant artist that loved images, words, and the dialogue between them. An educator who worked tirelessly to help us define and redefine the meaning of art. I don’t think we would be able understand Cattelan’s Comedian without Baldessari.

You may also like


Terry Gay Puckett January 12, 2020 - 12:38

Sorry to hear that we have lost John Baldesarri. I studied him in grad school, and admire his work.

Patrick Kelly January 13, 2020 - 19:19

I was fortunate enough to meet John Baldessari in Denton, Texas in the mid-1980s. He was at an after-party (hosted by the late educator Claudia Betti) following his lecture at NTSU earlier that day. I likely didn’t appreciate who I was meeting at the time. From that meeting onward his work has inspired me. You can clearly see his influence throughout the art world. Thank you John.

Barnaby Fitzgerald January 16, 2020 - 09:56

A great mind and exceptional wit. I only have one doubt about his legacy, which is that he seems to have allowed a confusion between the expansion of meaning and the expansion of means. In the case of the latter, old and tired meanings can re-emerge in the guise of innovation, a surge of production hard to sift through and often a serious waste of time.

Daniel McGrath October 22, 2020 - 09:23

Interesting tutor. Grade depended on ambition. Very sage.


Leave a Comment

Funding generously provided by: