Book Sculptures – Ex Libris, Turning Over New Leaves Part 1

Book Sculptures – Ex Libris, Turning Over New Leaves Part 1

Absolute Authority, 2011, Hardcover book, acrylic medium, 9-3/4″ x 7-3/4″ x 4″ – Image Courtesy of the Artist Brian Dettmer and Wexler Gallery

Renowned German born Nobel Prize winning theoretical physicist Albert Einstein said ‘imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.’

Taking this to heart Atlanta based sculptor Brian Dettmer, together with Melbourne based Australian sculptor Nicholas Jones and a ‘secret sculptor in Scotland’, are among a growing number of artists around the world working to conceive, create and breathe new life into a diverse array of book leaves, which have been discarded as ‘cultural detritus’.

Working on words, sentences, paragraphs and images large and small the book sculptor whittles away existing material to reveal new ideas and images that evoke an entirely different kind of response.

The considerable art of book sculpture requires a great deal of patience, considerable skill, an eye for the richness of diversity, a focus and attention to glorious detail and, above all, a marvellous imagination.

What book sculptors have in common is re-interpreting the spirit of those classic thinkers, who originally committed to printing the wisdom and words of the ancients.

Through their art works they are helping to focus our attention on innovation, which the printed book itself was when it finally arrived in Europe during the 15th century and then gradually came within the reach of everyman finally during the 18th and 19th centuries.

Wagnalls Wheel, 2010, Altered Set of Encyclopedias, 9″ x 20-1/2″ x 20-1/2″ – Image Courtesy of the Artist Brian Dettmer and Toomey Tourell Fine Art

Numerous galleries today represent Chicago born Brian Dettmer across America and he has established himself since 2003 internationally through the Internet and traditional media.

His works have been exhibited and are in collections from the west to the east coast in America from Canada to London and from Spain to Paris.

Dettmer’s work was also included in the “40 under 40” group exhibition held at the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC from July 2012 – February 2013.

In his own words Dettmer describes his process…’ 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’…

Organized Knowledge in Story and Picture, 2010, Altered Set of Vintage Encyclopedias, 22 1/4″ x 53″ x 2 1/2″ – Image Courtesy of the Artist Brian Dettmer and Saltworks Gallery, Atlanta

Brian Dettmer says that … ‘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’.

Book sculptors are highlighting how important are those people who create for a living, inspiring us all by expounding the theory ‘creativity is intrinsically human’.

They are helping to develop the potential and creative capabilities of every person, clearly demonstrating the transforming role that creativity has in every society, which is today boosting economies around the world.

The March of Democracy, 2010, Altered books, 18 1/2″ x 19 1/2″ x 4″ – Image Courtesy of the Artist Brian Dettmer and Saltworks

Both imagination and innovation are required if we are to reshape our world in the future. The considerable art of book sculpture provides yet another forum for establishing in-depth conversations, communication in community and intercultural connections.

Through the art of a book sculptor like Brian Dettmer we are all experiencing first hand ‘The Rise of the Creative Class’.

Continued in Part 2

Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle 2012

Watch a Video about 40 Under 40 by Brian Dettmer

Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle 2013

Tab, 2005, Altered Set of Vintage Encyclopedias, 51″(h) x 10.25″(w) x 7.5″(d) – Image Courtesy of the Artist Brian Dettmer

Brian Dettmer- Book Sculptor

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.

Brian Dettmer can be contacted via his website

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