IAIN BAXTER&

IAIN BAXTER&, "Dialogue, Jasper National Park, Alberta", 1969, chromira print, 49.5 x 72.4 cm. Photo: Andre Beneteau
IAIN BAXTER&, "White Spot Restaurant Landscape, Vancouver, British Columbia", 1967, chromira print, 49.5 x 72.4 cm. Photo: Andre Beneteau
IAIN BAXTER&, "Wheels, Vancouver, British Columbia", 1968, chromira print, 49.5 x 72.4 cm. Photo: Andre Beneteau
IAIN BAXTER&, "Highway, near Banff, Alberta", 1969, chromira print, 49.5 x 72.4 cm. Photo: Andre Beneteau
IAIN BAXTER&, "Water Tower, Sault Saint Marie, Ontario", 1968, chromira print, 49.5 x 72.4 cm. Photo: Andre Beneteau
IAIN BAXTER&, "Garage, near Mont Tremblant, Quebec", 1968, chromira print, 49.5 x 72.4 cm. Photo: Andre Beneteau

IAIN BAXTER&
Sign, Highway 17, near Sudbury, Ontario, 1969
Duratrans lightbox
91.4 x 121.9 x 14.0 cm

IAIN BAXTER&
Dialogue, Jasper National Park, Alberta, 1969
Chromira print
49.5 x 72.4 cm

IAIN BAXTER&
White Spot Restaurant Landscape, Vancouver, British Columbia, 1967
Chromira print
49.5 x 72.4 cm

IAIN BAXTER&
Wheels, Vancouver, British Columbia, 1968
Chromira print
49.5 x 72.4 cm

IAIN BAXTER&
Highway, near Banff, Alberta, 1969
Chromira print
49.5 x 72.4 cm

IAIN BAXTER&
Water Tower, Sault Saint Marie, Ontario, 1968
Chromira print
49.5 x 72.4 cm

IAIN BAXTER&
Garage, near Mont Tremblant, Quebec, 1968
Chromira print
49.5 x 72.4 cm

Windsor-based senior Canadian artist IAIN BAXTER& is Canada’s self-described “1st conceptual artist.” Born in 1936, BAXTER& studied zoology at the University of Idaho before travelling to Japan for a two-year artist’s residency in 1961. Upon his return to the USA, BAXTER& ultimately focused full-time on art production and experimental education techniques. Moving from abstract painting to conceptual, site-specific installations and performative works, BAXTER& first showed his light box works in 1965 alongside his seminal vacuum-formed still lifes. By 1966 BAXTER& formed his first artist corporation, the anonymous IT, with his wife Ingrid Baxter and John Friel. Later that same year BAXTER& and Ingrid Baxter formed the N.E. Baxter Thing Co. (later the N.E. Thing Co. and sometimes referred to as NETCO), an umbrella corporation for a number of artistic activities and services. BAXTER& and N.E. Thing Co. achieved enormous success, working alongside arte povera, conceptual and environmental artists including Lucy Lippard, Dennis Oppenheim and Robert Smithson.

N.E. Thing Co. dissolved in 1978 and BAXTER& moved on to new solo projects, often partnering with major corporations including Polaroid and Molson. Works from the 1980s onwards are often concerned with environmental issues and ecological theories, and many are produced in collaboration with his second wife, Louise Chance Baxter.

From the mid-1990s, BAXTER& has re-emerged as a seminal figure in the history of twentieth century conceptual art. In France, particularly, he is considered an artistic godfather to ecological and conceptual artists. Reflecting his lifelong approach to non-authorial art production, BAXTER& legally appended an ampersand to the end of his last name in 2005. Some of his major awards include the Order of Canada in 2003, the 2005 Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts and, in 2006, the Gershon Iskowitz Prize at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

IAIN BAXTER&’s approach to photography is firmly rooted in the dematerialized art world of the 1960s and 1970s. Vancouver-based artist Ian Wallace notes that BAXTER& “was one of the first people to pick up on the use of photography from a conceptual point of view,”[1] and he did so by embracing the role of the amateur. Deliberately banal and taken with little thought for composition, BAXTER&’s photographs nonetheless demonstrate his light and humorous touch. Amongst his other innovations, BAXTER& was the first to use the light box—prefiguring Jeff Wall’s use of the same by ten years.

Contemporary documentary photographers respond to the awe-inspiring landscapes captured by serious-minded 19th century photographers as much as the bland “new topographics” depicted by Ed Ruscha, Robert Adams and Bernd and Hilla Becher. With Water Tower, Sault Sainte Marie, BAXTER& subverts the idea of the Northern sublime—the pristine body of water replaced by a prosaic municipal water tower, framed and criss-crossed by power lines under a heavy, dark sky. White Spot Restaurant Landscape, Vancouver, British Columbia takes a skewed glance at the vaunted “landscapes” of the Canadian west in ways that presage Stephen Shore’s landmark American Surfaces (1972-3) and Uncommon Places (1982). While Jack Chambers avoided comparisons to photographic realism when discussing his own work, perhaps the clearest relationship between BAXTER&’s images and those of his peers is with Chambers’ 401 Towards London No. 1 (1968-1969). Highway, near Banff, Alberta, 1969, isolates a comparable moment, the architectural elements of the car functioning as a frame for the built environment.

[1] Quoted in Sarah Scott, “Mr. Concept: IAIN BAXTER& is rediscovered and rediscovered and…” Canadian Art,  29 (1): 95.