CCA Wattis Institute Presents: John Baldessari: Class Assignments (Optional)

An example of Baldessari's instructions to students.

The CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts
presents the exhibition
John Baldessari: Class Assignments (optional)
January 19-March 31, 2012

San Francisco, Calif., December 5, 2011 -- The CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts is pleased to present the exhibition John Baldessari: Class Assignments, (Optional) from January 19 through March 31, 2012, in the Logan Galleries of California College of the Arts, 1111 Eighth Street, San Francisco. It is free and open to the public, with an opening reception on Thursday, January 19, from 6 to 8 p.m.

The exhibition will feature works by 70 students in CCA’s Graduate Program in Fine Arts. The works are responses to a series of notes/instructions provided by John Baldessari, who first used the notes in 1970, when he was a professor at California Institute of the Arts (Cal Arts). That original course was called Cal Arts Post Studio Art: Class Assignments (optional), 1970. The notes instruct the students to, for instance, “Imitate Baldessari in actions and speech. Video”; “Disguise an object to look like another object”; or “Develop a visual code. Give it to another student to crack.”

The project and exhibition reflect Baldessari’s ongoing interest in pedagogical and conceptual approaches to art making. Many of his most important works of the 1970s, such as Throwing Three Balls in the Air to Get a Straight Line (Best of Thirty-Six Attempts) from 1973, were produced using similar strategies. Baldessari’s other long-standing strategies and interests include arbitrary games, experimentation and iteration, the exploitation of rule-based systems and linguistic structures, and the defiance of arbitrarily imposed limits to find new solutions to problems.

About John Baldessari
John Baldessari was born in National City, California, in 1931 and lives and works in Santa Monica and Venice, California. He earned a BA (1953) and an MA (1957) from San Diego State College, spent time at the University of California at Berkeley and University of California Los Angeles, and then continued his studies at Otis Art Institute and Chouinard Art Institute (1957–59).

Baldessari has received several honorary doctorates, most recently from California College of the Arts (2011) and the National University of Ireland, Burren College of Art (2006). He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2008. He has participated in Documenta (1982, 1972); the Venice Biennale (2009, 2003, 1997); and seven Whitney Biennials, most recently in 2008. His work has been shown in more than 120 solo exhibitions and 300 group exhibitions. He was awarded the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the Venice Biennale in 2009.

A major retrospective entitled Pure Beauty, which spans five decades of Baldessari’s work, toured between 2009 and 2011 through the Tate Modern, London; the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA); and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).

About CCA’s Graduate Program in Fine Arts
Central to CCA's Graduate Program in Fine Arts curriculum is the idea that developing a sustained, critical practice is an essential part of creating a dynamic career as a professional artist. The MFA program helps students to gain a deeper understanding of their own ideas and practice, to gain greater awareness of the global context of contemporary art, and to develop the skills in presentation needed to pursue a career in the visual arts. For more information, visit

About the CCA Wattis Institute
The CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts was established in 1998 in San Francisco at California College of the Arts. It serves as a forum for the presentation and discussion of international contemporary art and curatorial practice. Through groundbreaking exhibitions, the Capp Street Project residency program, lectures, symposia, and publications, the Wattis Institute has become one of the leading art institutions in the United States and an active site for contemporary culture in the Bay Area. For more information about the Wattis Institute, visit

About California College of the Arts
Founded in 1907, California College of the Arts (CCA) is noted for the interdisciplinarity and breadth of its programs. It offers studies in 21 undergraduate and seven graduate majors in the areas of fine arts, architecture, design, and writing. The college offers bachelor of architecture, bachelor of arts, bachelor of fine arts, master of architecture, master of arts, master of fine arts, and master of business administration degrees. With campuses in San Francisco and Oakland, CCA currently enrolls 1,950 full-time students. Noted alumni include the painters Nathan Oliveira and Raymond Saunders; the ceramicists Robert Arneson, Viola Frey, and Peter Voulkos; the filmmaker Wayne Wang; the conceptual artists David Ireland and Dennis Oppenheim; and the designers Lucille Tenazas and Michael Vanderbyl. For more information about CCA, visit


January 19-March 31, 2012
The CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts presents the exhibition
John Baldessari: Class Assignments, (Optional)
California College of the Arts, San Francisco campus
1111 Eighth Street (at 16th and Wisconsin)
Opening reception: Thursday, January 19, 2012, 6-8 p.m.
Gallery hours: Tues.-Fri., noon-8 p.m.; Sat., 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; closed Sun. and Mon.
Cost: Free
Info: 415.551.9210,,

Brenda Tucker 415.703.9548
Allison Byers 415.703.9541