Art Gallery of Ontario opens IAIN BAXTER&. Works 1958–2011

The Art Gallery of Ontario presents IAIN BAXTER&. Works 1958–2011, an exhibition on view from March 3 to Aug. 12, 2012.

IAIN BAXTER& N.E. Thing Co. Still Life with 6 Trucks, Highway 1, Saskatchewan, 1968. Cibachrome transparency and lightbox. 13 5/8 x 19 3/4 x 5 1/8 in. (34.7 x 50.2 x 13.1 cm). Gift of IAIN BAXTER& and Ingrid Baxter, 1995. Collection of the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, The University of British Columbia. Photo: Michael Barrick, Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery

For 50 years, Canadian artist IAIN BAXTER& has been radically redefining the role of the artist, integrating photography, installation, sculpture, painting, drawing and performative aspects into his work, IAIN BAXTER&: Works 1958–2011, invites visitors to become collaborators, by engaging with the artist and his work. Special events that highlight the interactive nature of the artist’s brand will complement and activate the exhibition.

Co-curated by David Moos, former curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the AGO and Michael Darling, James W. Alsdorf Chief Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IAIN BAXTER&: Works 1958–2011 brings the evolution of BAXTER&’s career to life for visitors. The exhibition travels directly to Toronto from Chicago, where it was recently on view at the MCA and was named a critic’s pick by Artforum International.

“BAXTER&’s thinking resonates today because his willingness to experiment remains undiminished,” Moos said. “It is here, between originality and the familiar, that one finds BAXTER&, raising our awareness that art is an experiment—an embrace one must experience.”

A believer in collaboration, the recurring symbol in BAXTER&’s work is the ampersand, and he often refers to himself as “the &man.” The artist, whose surname is pronounced “Baxter-and” has worked under various monikers throughout his career, most famously N.E. Thing Co., a corporate-style organization he served as co-president of with his then-wife Ingrid Baxter. In 2005 BAXTER& legally added an “&” to his name, reflecting his collaborative approach to art and his fundamental belief that art requires a strong connection with the viewer. “Life,” says BAXTER&, “seems to be about ands. After we leave this life and this planet, only an & remains.”

Recognizing that communication goes both ways, the exhibition offers visitors an opportunity to interact and engage with BAXTER& and his work. Eighteen custom-designed QR codes populate the exhibition, letting smartphone users watch, share and comment on videos, audio and behind-the-scenes content in the Wi-Fi enabled Gallery. At the heart of the exhibition lies an ampersand-shaped interaction station where, through Twitter, visitors can share their answers to thought-provoking questions from the artist, including topics of environmentalism which figure heavily in his work.

Featuring some 100 photographic, sculptural and vacuum-formed works, including Inflated Blue Sky and Zero Emissions, the exhibition takes visitors on an often witty tour through some of the most important themes of contemporary art: the connection between art, business and everyday life; environmental issues; and the rise of photography as a vibrant and relevant art form. –

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