Defense Date

2011

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Art History

First Advisor

Robert Hobbs

Abstract

The Canadian artist IAIN BAXTER&, known before 2005 as Iain Baxter, created an innovative Conceptual Art practice in the mid-60s that continues to make important contributions even today. He has maintained a strong collaborative element in his art, as witnessed by his role in the short-lived group IT (1965) and N.E. THING CO. (1966-1978)--an actual incorporated company consisting of BAXTER& and his first wife, Ingrid Baxter as chief officers--and by the addition of an ampersand to his legal name in 2005 to signify the open-ended quality of his work that relies on viewers‘ contributions to help determine its meaning. This dissertation introduces the term "Pop-inflected Conceptual Art" to describe how BAXTER& merges his use of information technologies, modern and ubiquitous materials, and pedestrian activities with a desire to question the received role and purpose of art through an epistemological approach. By presenting BAXTER&‘s key influences—Zen Buddhism, as described by D.T. Suzuki and Alan Watts, and the communications theory of Marshall McLuhan—this study describes five underlying principles that inform BAXTER&‘s work individually and in unison. These principles are: his preference for foregrounding the banal; creation of the "infoscape" that merges the natural world and the constant stream of information within North American culture; proclivity for experimenting with such unlikely media as plastics and telecommunication media; understanding of art‘s kinship with language; and usage of pseudonyms. This study describes the core terms of McLuhan‘s theory in order to analyze this thinker‘s significance for BAXTER&‘s work; moreover, it presents how the above five principles are evident throughout the three main divisions in BAXTER&‘s artistic career: before, during, and after his tenure with N.E. THING CO. Through an analysis of key examples of many of this artist‘s works, this study also determines affinities to both established Pop artists and his Conceptual Art peers, while distinguishing how his Zen and McLuhanesque hybrid approach, which includes a consistent reliance on humor to communicate definitively his ideas, sets him apart from these groups of artists and foregrounds his role as the precursor to such younger Vancouver photoconceptual artists as Ian Wallace, Jeff Wall, Rodney Graham, and Stan Douglas.

Rights

© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

May 2011

Available for download on Thursday, May 13, 2021

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