Brian Dettmer: Elemental
2011/2012 Working Artist Project (WAP)
Exhibition Dates: July 28 – October 26, 2012
Opening Reception: Friday, July 27th / Artist Talk: Thursday, August 30th
Traveled to: Fullerton Public Library, Fullerton, CA (Feb 1 – Apr 28, 2013); Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art, Virginia Beach, VA (May 30 – Aug 18, 2013); and Haverford College, Haverford, PA (Oct 25 – Dec 15, 2013)

MOCA GA 2011/2012 Working Artist Project selected by Michael Rooks, Wieland Family Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, High Museum of Art, Atlanta.

Click here to view more work by Brian Dettmer in the MOCA GA Permanent Collection.

About Brian Dettmer


Brian Dettmer (b. 1974 in Chicago, Illinois) is known for his detailed and innovative sculptures with books and other forms of analog media. Dettmer has had solo shows in New York, Chicago, Miami, San Francisco, Atlanta and Barcelona. His work has been exhibited throughout North America and Europe at galleries and museums including the Museum of Arts and Design (NY), The Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian Institute (DC), the Museum of Contemporary Art (GA), The Chicago Cultural Center (IL), and Museum Rijswijk (Netherlands) among many others. His work has been featured on the CBS Evening News, The New York Times (US), The Los Angeles Times (US), The Guardian (UK), Chicago Tribune (US), Art News, Modern Painters, Wired, and National Public Radio among others. Earlier this year Dettmer had a solo show at the University of Maribor in Maribor, Slovenia as part of its celebration as the European Capital of Culture for 2012. Dettmer is originally from Chicago. He currently resides in Atlanta where he is represented by Saltworks Gallery. His WAP Studio Apprentice was Ashley Schick.

About Elemental

Material and history are being lost, slipping and eroding, from a tangible constant to an endless series of mutations. The richness and depth of older books is universally respected yet often undiscovered as users need a quicker, slicker bite of information. The book’s intended function has decreased. Its relevance is still vital but the content stays sedentary and the form remains linear in a non-linear world. We are left with raw material.

In my upcoming show for MOCA GA I continue to question the past, present and future of the book by exploring and expanding possibilities and perspectives of the book’s form and its content. In this show iconic forms and symbols from early childhood education are deconstructed and represented in new ways. Encyclopedia sets merge to form tall towers and pixilated patterns as the symbols and ideas from the past are broken down to basic elements. Long rows of paperbacks are compressed and sanded into solid wooden forms. Books on games reveal new matrices as a result of strategy and chance. A chart inspired by a thesaurus follows thousands of potential paths of meaning that spring from a single word. Images of state flags are dissected and reconstructed to present a new vocabulary about locality from existing symbols of authority.

Authoritative materials and images adapt to amplify their own physicality while raising questions about their own internal meaning and the structures they rely on to communicate. In the past, ideas were recorded and saved in solid forms but in today’s intangible world we may be left with nothing. Foundations are threatened and history is lost as formats change and structures erode. We are at a pivotal moment as the monopoly of the book breaks down and elementary concepts and symbols are losing their traditional forms to be reformatted for the future.

– Brian Dettmer