Sense of Place Guide
with Iain Baxter&
04 | Over The Wire
series curated by Charles Stankievech
Veteran conceptual artist Iain Baxter& has been at the forefront of contemporary art practices for the last 40 years. His work has consistently questioned the role of art as commodity and as a medium for cultural commentary. Among his many innovations, Baxter& was the first artist to adopt a corporate persona: in 1966, he formed the N.E. Thing Company. NETCO’s output ranged from conceptual, satirical, vacuum-formed still lifes to post-modern appropriations of famous artworks and was included in Kinaston McShine’s seminal conceptualist exhibition Information held at the MoMA in 1970. Lucy Lippard wrote about his work in her seminal book Six Years: The Dematerialization of the Art Object from 1966 to 1972, positioning Baxter& as a conceptual artist alongside Robert Smithson.
From 1964 to 1971 Baxter& taught at the University of British Columbia and started the Art Department at Simon Fraser University. He was seminal in early years of the Vancouver School, but left the west coast early on. His early photographs, beginning in 1958 position Baxter&’s art practices at the root of conceptual photography and text-based photographic work. In 1968 Baxter& began working with light box transparencies as part of his ongoing preoccupation with art-as-sign or sign-as-art. He was a pioneer in his use of mixed media and both through his work and as a teacher was an important influence on later generations of artists, in Vancouver, Canada and abroad. Baxter& went on to teach at the Alberta College of Art and Design and York University, and he is currently professor emeritus at the University of Windsor where he has taught since 1988. He has received numerous awards including a Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts in 2004 and was named an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2003.
Baxter&’s artistic explorations into environmental issues, mass consumerism and modes of communication, established conceptualism in Canada. His recent work includes neon signs, ‘animal preserves’, a grocery cart of ‘GMO’s’ (genetically modified organisms) and installations using obsolete technology. They continue to reveal Baxter&’s signature mix of ecological, social and conceptual concerns with his own brand of playfulness.
His work as a solo artist and as founder of N.E. Thing Co. has been widely exhibited and collected in institutions including the Museum of Modern Art; the Guggenheim Museum; the Museum of New Art, Detroit; the Art Gallery of Ontario; the Vancouver Art Gallery; the F.R.A.C. Art Museum in Bretagne, France; Gemeentemusem in The Hague, Holland, and the National Gallery of Canada.
Poster Image credit:
Three minute photos, Pacific National Exhibition, Vancouver, B.C. 1967.