above: Brian Dettmer, Webster Withdrawn, 2010
Taking medical texts, encylopedias, dictionaries, historical texts and other reference tomes, artist Brian Dettmer creates intricate sculptures. Carving up covers, interior pages, images and words to create layers and assembling the books with great dimensionality, his works create narratives that demand the viewer’s investigation. Photos won’t do them justice, so if you ever get the chance to see them in person, do! (upcoming shows are listed at the end of this post)
Altered Books by Brian Dettmer
Absolute Authority, 2011:
Complete Guide, 2011:
Complete Guide (detail), 2011:
The Brain, 2011:
The Brain (detail), 2011:
Smith’s Scientific Series, full and detail, 2011:
There’s Nothing To Fear, 2011:
There’s Nothing To Fear (detail), 2011:
Saturation Will Result, 2011:
Macmillan (detail), 2011:
The Facts on File, 2011:
Tower of Babble, 2011:
Universal Standard, 2011 and American Peoples, 2011:
American Peoples, 2011 (detail):
American Peoples (close up), 2011:
Prose and Poetry of the World, 2011:
Compiled Upon A New Plan, 2010:
Encylopedias of World Travel, 2010:
The House of Tongues:
The March of Democracy, 2010:
The ROTC Manual, 2010:
The Story of Man, 2010:
Military Preventative Medicine, 2010:
The Volume Library, 2010:
Wagnall’s Wheel, 2010:
The age of information in physical form is waning. As intangible routes thrive with quicker fluidity, material and history are being lost, slipping and eroding into the ether. Newer media swiftly flips forms, unrestricted by the weight of material and the responsibility of history. In the tangible world we are left with a frozen material but in the intangible world we may be left with nothing. History is lost as formats change from physical stability to digital distress.
The richness and depth of the book is universally respected yet often undiscovered as the monopoly of the form and relevance of the information fades over time. The book’s intended function has decreased and the form remains linear in a non-linear world. By altering physical forms of information and shifting preconceived functions, new and unexpected roles emerge. This is the area I currently operate in. Through meticulous excavation or concise alteration I edit or dissect communicative objects or systems such as books, maps, tapes and other media. The medium’s role transforms. Its content is recontextualized and new meanings or interpretations emerge.
Explanation of Process:
In this work I begin with an existing book and seal its edges, creating an enclosed vessel full of unearthed potential. I cut into the surface of the book and dissect through it from the front. I work with knives, tweezers and surgical tools to carve one page at a time, exposing each layer while cutting around ideas and images of interest. Nothing inside the books is relocated or implanted, only removed. Images and ideas are revealed to expose alternate histories and memories. My work is a collaboration with the existing material and its past creators and the completed pieces expose new relationships of the book’s internal elements exactly where they have been since their original conception.
Dettmer is originally from Chicago. He currently resides in Atlanta, GA.
Brian Dettmer is known for his detailed and innovative sculptures with books and other forms of antiquated media. He is currently represented by Kinz + Tillou (New York), Packer Schopf (Chicago), MiTO (Barcelona), Toomey Tourell (San Francisco) and Saltworks (Atlanta). Dettmer’s work has been exhibited Internationally in several galleries, museums and art centers including the Museum of Arts and Design (NY), Museum of Contemporary Art (GA), the International Museum of Surgical Science (IL), Museum Rijswijh (Netherlands), Wellcome Collection (England) the Bellevue Arts Museum (WA), The Kohler Arts Center (WI), and the Illinois State Museums (IL). His work can be found in several public and private collections throughout the U.S, Latin America, Europe, Australia and Asia.
Dettmer’s work has gained International acclaim through internet bloggers, and traditional media. His work has been featured on the CBS Evening News, The New York Times (US), The Los Angeles Times (US), The Guardian (UK), The Telegraph (UK) Chicago Tribune (US), The Age (AU), Art News, Modern Painters, Wired, The Village Voice, Harper’s, Esquire and National Public Radio among others.
In recent years Dettmer has established himself as one of the leading International contemporary artists working with the book today. In 2011 his work was featured on the cover of Book Art (Gestalten Publishers, Berlin) and discussed in a historical context in Bookwork (Stewart, The University of Chicago Press). In 2012 he is scheduled to have solo shows in San Francisco with Toomey Tourell Fine Art and The Jewish Community Center; in Maribor, Slovenia as part of its celebration as the European Cultural Capital of 2012; in Lucca, Italy for Cartasia, a biennale of contemporary paper art; and in Atlanta, GA at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia. His work is also scheduled to be in several group shows including “40 under 40” at the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian Institute.
Upcoming Solo Shows:
• Brian Dettmer, October 20, 2012 – January 5, 2013 Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia (MOCA-GA), Atlanta, GA
• Brian Dettmer, Selected Works, February – March 2012, Jewish Community Center of San Francisco, San Francisco, CA
• Brian Dettmer, Textonomy, February 2 – March 17, 2012, Toomey Tourell Fine Art, San Francisco, CA
all images courtesy of the artist