I've been thinking about about John Baldessari's painting since it was discussed on Friday. Well, actually I've been thinking more about the frame of "Exhibiting Paintings" more than the paint itself.
My curiosity piqued when a Hirshorn staff member told an anecdote about the painting. Apparently a museum patron complained to an employee about the typos on the sign downstairs. Hirshorn staff later realized the "sign" in question was in fact Baldessari's painting.
I can begin to see how the patron mistook that painting for a sign. For this confusion, I blame the frame.
Consider this: if the painting was hung sans frame, it would reveal itself as a canvas. A canvas then signals 'painting.'
If the frame existed by was thicker, more ornate, colored differently than that "landlord" yellow, it would read more as a 'frame.' A frame then signals with a painting is within it.
However, "Exhibiting Paintings" was a presented with neither of these options. It had a frame- but it was hardly noticeable. It is a thin, less than one inch thick, straight-edge, wood frame. It is a natural light wood color, somewhere between the white of the walls and yellow of the canvas.
Ultimately, it is rather aesthetically insignificant. I would not be surprised if I was the only one there who considered its role.
The frame did not have the presence of a frame. It was indeed more like a signpost that houses an informational sign.
I assert that, by removing or replacing the frame, "Exhibiting Paintings" would register more as an exhibited painting. (One that note: I think if this piece was more painting-like spectators would be more understanding of the "typos" - like this blogger in particular.)
Now, the question is, who chose the frame? Is this frame part of the intellectual/aesthetic design of Baldessari himself? or a bizzaro choice by a Hirshhorn curator?