Book Carving

about Brian Dettmer

Brian Dettmer carves intricate sculptures from outdated materials like encyclopedias, textbooks, maps and cassette tapes. To create his works he seals the object with varnish, then swiftly and deftly moves through it with an X-Acto knife until he comes out the other side, cutting away material to form something new. His beautiful carvings reflect how, in a digital information landscape, even the oldest forms of knowledge can be repurposed.

What Brian would like people to think about, through his work, is books. “What they mean to them personally and what is happening today on a larger cultural scale to books and the information we consume, to think about the flexibility of authorship and authority and the benefits and risks that might impose, to think about the way we experience the internet and life in general, in small unrelated fragments that we are driven to construct into stories in order to extract meaning.

“When I was in school I was focusing primarily on painting. I was working at a sign shop at the time and was interested in the dichotomy between language and the information it contained. Most of my work dealt with codes and other language systems, obscuring and revealing ideas in text through different systems. I began to rip up newspapers and then eventually books to apply the text to the surface of the canvas.

Originally from Chicago, Brian is one of the leading artists working with the book today. His sculptures have been exhibited internationally in institutions including the Museum of Arts and Design, NY, The Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian Institute, DC and the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art, VA. They can be found in the permanent collection of several notable institutions and have been featured in The New York Times, The Guardian, The Telegraph and NPR among many others.



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