"I’d like to sing for you some of the sentences that Sol LeWitt has written on Conceptual Art. I feel this is a tribute to him in that I think that these sentences have been hidden too long in the pages of exhibition catalogues and that perhaps, by my singing them for you, it will bring these sentences to a much larger public. I'll use the same ordering and numbering that he has. I'll try to pause between each statement for clarity. It may be that occasionally I will have to sing one sentence over more than once, in that I might not get the phrasing correct."
John Baldessari, Baldessari Sings LeWitt (extract), 1972
In 1972, John Baldessari (1931–2020) executed Baldessari Sings LeWitt, a videotape where the artist, sitting in a chair and clutching a sheaf of papers, sings the thirty-five Sentences on Conceptual Art – the Conceptual Art manifesto that Sol LeWitt (1928–2007) wrote in 1968 – to the tune of popular songs. Baldessari frees the sentences from the printed paper and turns them into sound, preserving the original text while blurring it through a new, unexpected context.
The idea of this exhibition originates from the possibility to recall the dialogue and exchange that occurred between Baldessari and Sol LeWitt by presenting this video alongside a selection of works showing the variety of their artistic languages. The works on display will visualize the artists’ lifelong pursuit of art as project through different yet similar sensibilities.
LeWitt's structures, writings and drawings are the foundations for an aesthetic and an ethic that, for over fifty years, has encouraged reflection on the essence of art. When writing about the video dedicated to his friend and colleague, Baldessari himself affirms that work is "the transformation of material from one medium to another, from print to song.” With this statement, the artist expands the sensory components of the printed paper, transforming LeWitt's theoretical descriptions by turning text into music.
The interaction between text and image, or, as exemplified in Baldessari Sings LeWitt, between sound and text speaks, on the one side, of Baldessari’s interest in creating new narratives through the manipulations of found images; on the other, it speaks of LeWitt’s research for a conceptual structure that produces sign variations.
This dialogue reveals the impact of both artists in expanding the understanding of Conceptual Art
, beyond the exclusive cerebral reading of the artwork towards the inclusion of a sense of play, absurd, irony and, at times, irreverence.