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salt 10: Conrad Bakker

September 12, 2014–February 8, 2015

Bakker makes imprecise, to-scale replicas of objects like books, photographs, chairs, and motorcycles out of wood and paint to investigate the creation of value and economic systems. Bakker's salt 10 installation at the UMFA will feature new work from his ongoing Untitled Projects series and will mirror the aesthetics of a library, with objects based in part on books from Spiral Jetty creator Robert Smithson's personal collection.

salt 10: Conrad Bakker essay

EXHIBITION SPONSOR: UMFA Friends of Contemporary Art (FoCA)



For his salt exhibition, Conrad Bakker debuts Untitled Project: Robert Smithson's Library and Book Club, an ongoing artwork currently consisting of more than 300 books, each carefully selected from the catalogue of the personal library of Land art pioneer Robert Smithson (American, 1938-1973). Though only a portion of Smithson's library is on view at this time, the books span a range of topics that interested the artist before his untimely death at the age of thirty-five, covering subjects such as geology, mythology, economics, film, physics, the cosmos, philosophy, science fiction, and avant-garde literature, becoming both a window into Smithson's thinking and a time capsule of ideas and culture.

However, these books cannot be read. Like the other Untitled Projects Bakker has been creating since 1997, these books are made of solid wood, hand-carved and roughly-painted to mimic their original, mass-produced counterparts. Here, Bakker's emphasis on materiality and skilled craftsmanship gives weight and physical presence to a library that has been stored in boxes and presented only in abstract list form for the past forty years.

Untitled Project: Robert Smithson's Library and Book Club
exists in two forms: first as a library of carved and painted books, the beginning of which is on view here, and the second as a collection of book sculptures distributed to individual Book Club members around the world. Visitors to the artist's website can view each book and become members of the Robert Smithson Book Club by simply purchasing a book sculpture. By extending the imitation beyond object mimicry into display modes and transaction formats, Bakker investigates the creation of value as well as the relationships between humans and things in economic systems.


LEFT | Conrad Bakker (Canadian, born 1970, lives Urbana, Ill.), Installation view of Untitled Project: Used Books, 2010-2013. Oil paint on carved wood. Courtesy the artist. RIGHT |  Conrad Bakker (Canadian, born 1970, lives Urbana, IL), Untitled Project: Robert Smithson's Library [Crystals Diamonds and Transistors], 2010. Oil paint on carved wood. Courtesy the artist.

previous salt exhibitions

salt 9: Jillian Mayer

salt 8: Shigeyuki Kihara

salt 7: Lynette Yiadom-Boakye

salt 6: Emre Hüner

salt 5: Daniel Everett

salt 4: Xaviera Simmons

salt 3: Cyprien Gaillard

salt 2: Sophie Whettnall

salt 1: Adriana Lara



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