Baldessari won’t tell. The idea is to raise issues rather than to provide answers. A playwright could create a three-act play from each one of Baldessari’s works. I’d rather have the art work.

–Diana Zlotnick, Newsletter on the Arts June 21, 1990

Hungry Eyes

Diana Zlotnick and Post-War Art in Los Angeles

Diana Zlotnick arranging artworks at home, accompanied by her family Photo: Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive, Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, UCLA

A voracious collector, comm­­unity builder, and champion of emergent contemporary artists, Diana Zlotnick tapped into the Los Angeles art world at a particularly charged moment of post-war creative ferment. Today, the art milieu of the late 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s Los Angeles has taken on nearly mythic qualities, conjuring Bohemian fetes in canyons, the experimental openness of CalArts, Venice Beach warehouse studios, and, broadly, an explosion of material and conceptual inquiry through performance, sculpture, video, painting, publication, and more. Zlotnick immersed herself wholeheartedly in this atmosphere, led by fearless curiosity, dedication, and deeply felt connections to the works that she brought home.

Collect art that cancels out the rest of the world…—Diana Zlotnick, Newsletter on the Arts, 2013

Born in 1927 and raised in Los Angeles, Diana Zlotnick (née Shirley) attended Fairfax High School and would later support herself as a schoolteacher. She met Harry Zlotnick at a USO dance, and, after a whirlwind romance, the couple married on July 3, 1955. Being a schoolteacher was decidedly not Ms. Zlotnick’s calling, nor was being a dental hygienist (she flunked the program). Encouraged by her husband, who was able to support the family as a veterinarian, Zlotnick stopped working—and started collecting. With determination, savvy, and a healthy dose of chutzpah, she went on to amass an extensive collection from major artists as their stars were rising – among those who most captivated her were Wallace Berman, Chris Burden, Llyn Foulkes, George Herms, Channa Horwitz, Gloria Kisch, Ed Ruscha, and Richard and Shirley Pettibone.

There aren't many collectors like Diana Zlotnick, though there ought to be...Not content to play the passive art consumer, she quickly began circumventing the gallery system, approaching artists directly — visiting studios, exploring work in depth and developing real relationships.

Doug Harvey, L.A. Weekly, October 27, 2005

John Baldessari 1931–2020

Renowned conceptual artist John Baldessari came of age in California, studying art education and art history between San Diego State College and the University of California, Berkeley. Structures of pedagogy and art historical precedent would continue to influence his work even as he made a radical split from gestural painting and moved into experimentation with a wide variety of media and modes. In 1970, Baldessari ceremoniously marked this passage with “The Cremation Project,” in which he burnt the majority of his paintings created before 1966 and then baked the ashes into cookies.

Though Baldessari consistently defied categorization, much of his work addressed the uneasy relationship between image and word. "I've often thought of myself as a frustrated writer," John Baldessari once confessed. "I consider a word and an image of equal weight, and a lot of my work comes out of that kind of thinking." He became perhaps best known for his tongue-in-cheek photomontages, which brought sardonic tidbits of punny text into conversation with found and reappropriated images. Although textual elements gradually vanished from Baldessari's work beginning in the early 1970s, the essential, underlying questions that drove his earlier work remained.

Beyond his art practice, Baldessari had a considerable influence on contemporary art through his role as an educator. He taught at CalArts from 1970 to 1988 and at the University of California at Los Angeles from 1996 to 2007, influencing an upcoming generation that include Mike Kelley, Richard Prince, and David Salle. Baldessari’s works are included in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, Guggenheim Museum, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and many others.

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