Last Friday, on my lunch break, hungry for cookies, I skipped over to the museum to find out and attended a gallery talk by National Gallery of Art curator Matthew Witkovsky on the exhibit.
Turns out the so-called "Corpus Wafers" are part of artist John Baldessari’s Cremation Project, in which the artist cremated all of his works executed between May 1953 and March 1966. He announced what he'd done in a local newspaper, photographed the event and baked cookies laced with the ashes.
"When you make a radical shift and you feel it’s absolutely radical, you want to get rid of everything before," said Witkovsky. He noted that Baldessari’s burning of his works wasn’t totally original. Jasper Johns destroyed everything in 1954 before his American flag series.
But baking them into cookies? Come on. That’s original.
(Photograph courtesy of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden; Cremation Project, Corpus Wafers (With Text, Recipe and Documentation) John Baldessari, 1970)