Anton Bakker is a contemporary artist specializing in sculpture and its digital possibilities. He has been influenced by the people and experiences of his life in the Netherlands, France, and in the United States, where his artistic practice has been based for more than 30 years.
While growing up in the Netherlands, Bakker met mathematician and artist Dr. Jacobus “Koos” Verhoeff at the suggestion of his sister’s classmate. What began as a simple introduction over a shared interest in computer technology turned into a 40-year artistic collaboration. Koos was a professional acquaintance and informal advisor on mathematical matters to the famed M.C. Escher. As an expression of his gratitude, Escher gifted Koos one of his prints. It was through Koos that Bakker became influenced by Escher’s unprecedented approach to perspective.
As their relationship developed, Koos and Bakker began to explore computer-based methods to find intriguing and beautiful paths within cubic lattice structures and polyhedra. Cubic lattices form the basis of the most stable molecular forms of many elements.
In the 1980s, Bakker moved to the United States, where he and Koos had their first joint sculpture exhibition in Albany, New York. Subsequently, Bakker leveraged his growing knowledge of computer science to pursue a career in technology, landing a position that required relocating to Paris for much of the 1990s. While in Paris, Bakker resumed regular face-to-face work sessions with Koos. Together, they created multiple lattice-derived sculptures that were exhibited throughout Europe.
Meanwhile, Bakker was at the forefront of a new tech field, working with innovators in Belgium to explore the possibilities of 3D printing. Upon returning to the U.S. in 1997, he started a business centered on data analysis all the while maintaining his artistic practice. His solutions for practical design and construction problems opened new possibilities for connecting lattice points with curved and polylinear paths. By applying these techniques at both small and large scales in steel, in bronze, and in virtual reality, Bakker has created unique sculptures that have been collected privately and publicly throughout the United States and Europe.
Bakker sold his tech business in 2018, shortly after the death of Koos, to devote himself to art full time. Today, he uses technology to compose paths in order to find those with a unique beauty that transforms as the viewers shift their points of view. With the aid of a computer interface, Bakker searches vast lattice expanses to identify points that generate intriguing paths in a quest to challenge the limits of perception and perspective.
As a sculptor creating digital and physical forms, I strive to take the viewer on a journey of truth-discovery by asking them to engage with various perspectives. Using custom-built technology, I create paths by connecting points in space. The curved and polyline paths that I compose are not arbitrary, rather, they are patterns derived from nature’s archetypes. The human attraction to symmetry extends deep into the unconscious realms of our minds.
Natural patterns and symmetries also play a key role in present-day technology. For 40 years, I have used technology both in my artistic explorations with my mentor, Koos, and in my business to analyze patterns. I now use technology solely to discover the beauty that hides in the minuscule yet vast world of atomic lattices.
One way that I explore perspectives is by constructing objects at vastly different scales and in multiple dimensions. The viewer’s relationship with my work changes whether they walk around a sculpture in a home, as part of an outdoor installation, or in a virtual landscape. My sculptures reveal dynamic symmetries that ask viewers to reflect on the beauty and multiplicity of perspectives inherent in all things.
Anton Bakker’s artistic realm is 3-dimensional space, punctuated by pinpoints of light in a “cubic lattice.” To envision this, think of cubes all exactly the same size, stacked neatly in all directions, matching edges, faces, and corners, to fill space. Then light up the corners and remove all but these lights. This is the cubic lattice. The artist decides on a path of line segments (called the “generator”) that connect some of these points, building in certain symmetries such as repetition, reflection, and reversal.
The instructions for marking out the generator are encoded in a special language that specifies how to travel from point to point, as in “turtle geometry.” (Think of a robot moving in space, directed how to travel to connect certain points.) The coded information is fed into Bakker’s computer program, and the program can search and find thousands of ways in which to repeat and connect copies of the generator to form non-intersecting simple loops and display images of them. The artist specifies how far these connected paths can venture from the initial point before they must follow a return route.
The artist can ask the program to filter the results, choosing or discarding those loops that are knotted, for example. He then chooses a few that might have aesthetic potential and gives life to these “stick figures”or“wire frame forms” by coating them. They can be coated uniformly, making all cross sections exactly the same – all circles, or triangles, or squares. But by smoothing the sharp corners of the stick figures and varying the thickness and width of the coating, the figures are transformed into sinuous, ever-flowing streams. The artist can view the results on his screen, turning the virtual figure through every angle to see its symmetries and the 2-dimensional illusions it creates. In the final stage, he decides the size and medium in which to have it fabricated as a tangible sculpture.
Work examples in bronze and steel: