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Jacob’s Ladder: John Baldessari Edition at the Deutsche Guggenheim

In Charles Laughton’s famous film Night of the Hunter, the wonderful Robert Mitchum plays a bigoted, violent preacher who has a very special tattoo. Across the back of the fingers of one hand is written "love"; across the fingers of the other stands "hate". John Baldessari, the creator of the current commissioned artwork for Deutsche Bank’s art collection, also sees love and hate as two sides of the same coin – at least that’s the suggestion made by the limited-edition piece he’s created on the occasion of his exhibition at the Deutsche Guggenheim in Berlin.

John Baldessari: Jacob's Ladder, Motivausschnitte

The piece is inspired by a children’s toy also popular with adults, and which dates back to ancient China. Today, it’s known under the name Jacob’s ladder. In this case, it’s a vertical spool around which a repeating series of images moves.

John Baldessari: Jacob's Ladder, Motivausschnitte

Baldessari Edition:
Jacob's Ladder
Baldessari’s limited edition isn’t mechanically-driven, but rather by means of a small electric motor. It features a total of twelve different motifs, each of which is typical for the work of the artist, who was born in 1931 in San Diego. They’re film stills from American B-movies: six kissing couples and six duelling, pistol-packing cowboys. When the motor of Baldessari’s Jacob’s ladder is set in motion, the images appear to flow into each other endlessly – love and hate as a Hollywood-influenced perpetual motion machine.

John Baldessari, Jacob’s Ladder: Love (Yellow, Red, Blue and Black and White); War (Orange, Violet, Green and Black and White) , 2004