Art Photography Visual Arts

John Baldessari at my office? Really? Yes!

On good days, I look at art.

On bad days, I look at art.

It’s safe to assume, I look at art (all the time).

That said, I am one of those individuals that actually notices art in office buildings. For goodness sake, there’s a reason why it’s there! Might as well look at it, right? Then again, there is a specific reason for public and corporate art. The San Francisco Art Commission (SFAC) has an ordinance that states the appropriation for art enrichment as stated in San Francisco Administrative Code, Section 3.19.

Seeing John Balderssari‘s work at work was pretty amazing. However, the security guard thought my behavior was suspicious.

John Baldessari, Hegel's Cellar Portfolio: Two Boats, 1986, Etching & aquatint

I hope it dawns on people that there’s a reason why art hangs in any office building. No, not only because it needs to be there but it serves as a reminder to cubicle dwelling folks that there’s more to work life than the stiff patterned carpet and antiseptic looking walls. Art needs to get in wherever it can fit in. Granted, some offices aren’t the most accessible places BUT there’s also the airport (SFO), Market Street, The Merchants Exchange Building, or hospitals (yes, I saw a Roy Lichtenstein in a hospital!!). Truthfully, art is not so out of reach as some may think. The SFAC has a public arts program that reaches out to the community, which is, certainly, worth a look.

I’m curious, where is the most unlikely place you’ve seen art? I would love to hear. 🙂

By Dorothy R. Santos

Dorothy R. Santos (b. 1978) is a Filipina American writer, artist, and educator whose academic and research interests include feminist media histories, critical medical anthropology, technology, race, and ethics. She is a Ph.D. student in Film and Digital Media at the University of California, Santa Cruz as a Eugene V. Cota-Robles fellow. She received her Master’s degree in Visual and Critical Studies at the California College of the Arts and holds Bachelor’s degrees in Philosophy and Psychology from the University of San Francisco. Her work as been exhibited at Ars Electronica, Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, and the GLBT Historical Society.

Her writing appears in art21, Art in America, Ars Technica, Hyperallergic, Rhizome, Vice Motherboard, and SF MOMA’s Open Space. Her essay “Materiality to Machines: Manufacturing the Organic and Hypotheses for Future Imaginings,” was published in The Routledge Companion to Biology in Art and Architecture. She is a co-founder of REFRESH, a politically-engaged art and curatorial collective and serves as the Executive Director for the Processing Foundation.

4 replies on “John Baldessari at my office? Really? Yes!”

For ten years I worked in a building with a lot of impressionist-type prints in the hallways. The place was designed to be homey and comforting to patients. Most of the prints were awful and after two years I couldn’t bear to look anymore. There was one, though, that I loved more every year: a young woman wearing a striped dress, lying in a hammock. Whenever possible I would park my cart in front of that picture. I think having it there saved my sanity more than once.

It’s funny that the security guard suspected you of something. I took a group of fourth and fifth graders to the Detroit Institute of Arts several years ago to research for a project. (There were maybe 7 of us.) One of the young boys touched something, alarms went off, of course. The guard who came was kind, but firmly told my group that folks who messed with the art went to jail. Scary! That poor kid is probably still avoiding museums.

Your reaction to the prints is very similar to my experiences at some hospitals. The process of art consulting interests me ONLY because I wonder how the consultants and the business owner/company decide what constitutes ‘homey’, ‘comforting’ or what is considered professionally appropriate. At the very least, it’s good there was one print that kept you sane.

Thank you for sharing your experience regarding a visit to the Detroit Institute of Arts. More and more, well, at least, in San Francisco and Oakland, participatory art is extremely popular. It allows patrons to become a part of the art process. I think that’s why the definition of art has a lot to do with that separation between the viewer and the art, which is deep seeded (i.e., Parisian Salons, etc.). There are still many people that think the only art is traditional art. Thanks again and HOPING that kid has gone to museums since. Indeed, poor kid. 😦

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