salt 10: Conrad Bakker

salt 10: Conrad Bakker

Utah Museum of Fine Arts

Conrad Bakker, Untitled Project: Robert Smithson’s Library and Book Club, 2014. Oil paint on carved wood. In-progress installation shot in the artist’s studio.
September 9, 2014
salt 10: Conrad Bakker

September 12, 2014–February 8, 2015

Utah Museum of Fine Arts 
The University of Utah
Marcia and John Price Museum Building
410 Campus Center Drive
Salt Lake City, UT  84112
Hours: Tuesday–Friday 10am–5pm,
Wednesdays 10am–8pm, weekends 11am–5pm

For his salt exhibition, Conrad Bakker debuts Untitled Project: Robert Smithson’s Library and Book Club, an ongoing artwork currently consisting of 320 books on tables and shelves at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts. The books are culled from the oft-cited catalog of Robert Smithson’s (American, 1938–1973) personal library and span a range of topics that interested the artist before his untimely death at the age of 35. Though only a portion of Smithson’s library is on view, the information represented is vast, touching on topics such as geology, mythology, capitalism, film, physics, the cosmos, philosophy, science fiction, and avant-garde literature.

Bakker’s discursive installation format is familiar, but his project challenges trends toward a conceptual, dematerialized art. Bakker’s books cannot be read; they are made of solid wood, as are the tables on which they rest. Bakker hand-carved and roughly painted to-scale copies of Smithson’s books, a process the artist will continue until he reproduces Smithson’s entire library of more than 1,000 volumes. Bakker’s project gives a weight and presence to a library that has been presented only in abstract list form for the past 40 years. His emphasis on materiality and skilled craftsmanship gives the project a physical presence that elucidates the agency of his copies and their absent originals.

Bakker extends the imitation beyond object mimicry into display modes and transaction formats. For Untitled Project: Robert Smithson’s Library and Book Club, Bakker will distribute a second replica of the library to individual Book Club members around the world. One set of the simulated books will live together, eventually representing the complete library. Images of each of these books will be uploaded and cataloged on the artist’s website. Visitors to the website can join the Robert Smithson Book Club by purchasing one book sculpture for just 100 USD. Bakker will then remake the selected book and ship the second copy to the new member. In return, the member must upload a photograph of the book in his or her hands to Bakker’s website. Like Bakker’s other Untitled Projects, the inability of his book sculptures to smoothly navigate the habits and economic cycles of their referents leads to a more complete understanding of the differences between the real and the copy and us.

Conrad Bakker (b. 1970, Canadia; lives Urbana, Illinois, USA) received his BFA from Calvin College and his MFA from Washington University in St. Louis. He has exhibited his work nationally and internationally at Tate Modern in London, Galerie Analix Forever in Geneva, the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, the Renaissance Society in Chicago, Fargfabriken Center for Contemporary Art and Architecture in Stockholm, The Blanton Museum of Art in Austin, Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Des Moines Art Center, among other venues. His work has been reviewed in Art World Magazine, ArtUS, ART PAPERS, UOVO, The New York Times, Contemporary, Flash Art, Artforum, Sculpture, Dwell, and ReadyMade. Bakker is a recipient of a Creative Capital Foundation project grant and an Illinois Arts Council Grant. He is currently an Associate Professor of Studio Art and the Assistant Director of Graduate Studies for the School of Art and Design at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign.

salt 10: Conrad Bakker is curated by Whitney Tassie, UMFA Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, and is supported by the UMFA Friends of Contemporary Art (FoCA). salt aims to reflect the international impact of contemporary art today, forging local connections to the global and bringing new and diverse artwork to the city that shares the program’s name.

Download the salt 10 exhibition essay here.

Free public programming
Artist and curator in conversation
Thursday, September 11, 5pm

Press contact: Mindy Wilson, T +1 801 581 7328 / [email protected].


salt 10: Conrad Bakker at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts

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Utah Museum of Fine Arts
September 9, 2014

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