John Baldessari, who pioneered a new genre of art in the 1970s and in the process helped elevate Los Angeles’s status in the art world from that of backwater berg to a center of the Conceptual movement, died on Jan. 2 at his home there. He was 88.

The artist’s representatives at New York’s Marian Goodman Gallery confirmed the death but did not provide a cause.

A literal and figurative giant in the world of art — he stood 6 feet 7 inches tall — the bearded, shaggy-haired Mr. Baldessari produced thousands of works, many of which have been exhibited all over the world and are in the collections of major museums from Los Angeles to New York.

He also influenced dozens of other artists, both with his work and as a teacher at the California Institute of the Arts and UCLA.

“His legendary class in Post-Studio Art bestowed on those of us with enough brains to notice a feeling of unbelievable luck of being in exactly the right place at the right time for the new freedoms in art,” fellow artist David Salle wrote in the 2013 introduction to a lengthy interview he conducted with Mr. Baldessari, his CalArts professor in the early 1970s.

Student met teacher at a time not long after Mr. Baldessari, having grown frustrated with his own abstract expressionist paintings, loaded them into 10 boxes, took them to a San Diego funeral home and burned them.

Bored with an art movement he believed had grown old and stale, Mr. Baldessari set out to create something new: multimedia works that among other things merged photographs with painting, included pieces of recognizable objects or body parts but in unimaginable ways, and contained perfectly formed block letters placed as captions on the paintings.

It was a style that prompted Los Angeles Times arts critic Christopher Knight to declare Mr. Baldessari “arguably America’s most influential Conceptual artist.”

Over the course of his career, which continued into his 80s, Mr. Baldessari worked in such forms as prints, sculpture, text-based art, paintings and photographs.

Some of his most well-known works included "God Nose," which depicted a nose in the sky; "The Intersection Series: Person and Dog/High Rise Building," a mixture of photography and acrylic that included a dog, a building, a car and other images; and "Double Bill: ...And Matisse," which combined inkjet print on canvas with acrylic and oil paint to display a pair of walking legs and the words "...And Matisse."

Those works and others often struck viewers as brilliantly constructed and at the same time whimsical, although Mr. Baldessari insisted he was never trying to be funny. Instead, he compared himself to a mystery writer, providing clues to the reader, or in this case the viewer, and letting them figure it out.

“I go back and forth between wanting to be abundantly simple and maddeningly complex,” he told Salle during that 2013 interview. “I always compare what I do to the work of a mystery writer — like, you don’t want to know the end of the book right away.”

John Anthony Baldessari was born June 17, 1931, in National City, Calif., a small town between San Diego and the Mexican city of Tijuana. His father, a salvage dealer, was from Austria and his mother from Denmark.

Showing artistic talent from an early age, he was often chosen by teachers to create murals or other art projects. After high school, he studied art at San Diego State College, which later became a university, despite his father’s concerns that it could be something at which he’d struggle to earn a living.

After receiving bachelor’s and master’s degrees at San Diego State, he went on to teach art at his alma mater, at public schools and, for one summer, at a camp for troubled teenagers. He would joke in later years that it was probably his imposing size as much as his artistic skills that earned him that latter job.

He was also painting and showing his work, although by the late 1960s, he had begun to grow bored with what he and others were producing.

Before torching his paintings in 1970, he created a magazine cover that depicted a copy of a painting with the words “This is not to be looked at” painted underneath the work as a caption.

After incinerating his own work, he began teaching at Cal-Arts, where his students included Salle, Mike Kelley, Barbara Bloom and other future prominent artists. Later, he taught for several years at UCLA.

Over the decades, he collected numerous honors, including the National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama in 2014.

His works are in the collections of New York’s Museum of Modern Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and in Los Angeles’s The Broad, the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) and the County Museum of Art.

“He’s someone who’s had over 377 solo exhibitions, been part of more than 1,500 group exhibitions, who has produced over 4,000 works of art,” former MOCA director Philippe Vergne said when the museum honored Mr. Baldessari in 2015.

As the accolades accumulated over the years, the soft-spoken artist remained humble, even mocking his work during a 2018 appearance on “The Simpsons,” in which he discusses art with ­Marge.

His 24-year marriage to Carol Wixom ended in divorce. “He’s a very dedicated man,” she told People magazine. “That’s what attracted me to him. But he started devoting more and more time to art and less to me. It was hard to be compatible with that.”

Survivors include two children and a sister.

— Associated Press