In a tech-mad world, Jeremiah Baker and his cohorts at design collective Normal Objects consider some intriguing alternatives. Baker, his collaborators, and platformed partners craft astonishingly analog functional things, transcendently simple and hand-executed things that announce their extreme luxury with a blaring stillness. Deconstructed match lighters, sleek conversation-starting watches that know more or less what time it is, Morse Code fidget tappers, desktops reimagined as refined sculpture parks — the witty, high-concept work lands somewhere between art and design, in an elevated zen flex of useful style. Baker is equally dedicated to encouraging greater African American representation in the design industry, where an increased plurality of voices, influences and lived experiences would be invaluable to the discourse.
L.A. WEEKLY: When did you first know you were an artist?
JEREMIAH BAKER: I first realized I was an artist when I found myself at a young age spending more time creating than seeking out what others created to be entertained. I was more fascinated by learning through creativity. I tend to OBJECT-ify, or PRODUCTIZE almost everything. I was carrying a portfolio filled with mixed-media art pieces. And spending my evenings painting and creating. Taking machines (mechanical pencil sharpeners, calculators) apart to see how they worked and remixing the parts in new ways to see what it would do. I had little interest in the common things kids my age were thinking and doing. Can’t say at that point, I identified as an “artist,” or anything, but I knew I was different.
What is your short answer to people who ask what your work is about?
My work is about provocation. Mixing and matching context & object(s). Essentially, remixing the expected to be familiar but reimagined. I prefer doing this through OBJECT & FORM. But, the approach extends to any medium I work through.
What would you be doing if you weren’t an artist?
If I wasn’t an artist I’d like to imagine I’d be an explorer. Traveling the world, learning about the historical sites, from a variety of cultures, and getting inspired by a wide variety of landscapes.
Did you go to art school? Why/Why not?
Yes, I’ve actually been enrolled in Art Schools since the 6th grade. I attended a Magnet School then a specialized Design & Art High School (Design & Architecture Senior High School) and went on to attend Art Center College of Design.
Why do you live and work in L.A., and not elsewhere?
L.A. is uniquely L.A. and it’s hard to describe. For me it’s a feeling. And I haven’t felt it anywhere else. Just the right mix of RAW balanced with notes of Sophistication. There’s also a distinct aesthetic that resonates with my approach. And a variety of people that make all the energy align to create that feeling. It can be intense and sometimes one needs to take a break. But that feeling will always draw you back.
When was your first show?
In 2018. Over the summer we put together a shop-able OBJECT installation, next door to an underground Coffee Shop in L.A. We didn’t widely promote it and it had to be discovered to be experienced.
When is/was your current/most recent/next show or project?
We’re currently planning our next installation and will announce it this summer. Please stay tuned. Project-wise, we’re collaborating with a select group of creatives to produce limited editions that will debut at said installation. Currently, I’m obsessed with single-purpose everyday objects. The common objects in culture everyone takes for granted. We’re dreaming up new ways to reinterpret them and give them new life.
What artist living or dead would you most like to show or work with?
This is a really hard one……. And, I can’t settle on only one. Would’ve absolutely LOVED to have worked with both Isamu Noguchi and Donald Judd for his masterful approach to experiencing design through emotional form & high-concept provocation.
Do you listen to music while you work? If so, what?
I do, and TORO Y MOI has consistently been an inspiration. Always delivers just the right vibes for the studio. That’s a musical artist I’d also love to collaborate with one day!