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Selective Collective Memories

Works by Brian Dettmer
East Gallery
October 25, 2018
- February 7, 2019

Books find new life as sculpture at the hands of Brooklyn artist Brian Dettmer. An exhibition of his work, Brian Dettmer: Selective Collective Memories, is in the East Gallery of the Albany Museum of Art.

Dettmer is a leading artist working with the object of the book. His work has been featured in The New York Times, The Guardian, The Telegraph, the Chicago Tribune, Art News, Modern Painters, Wired, The Village Voice, and Harper’s, and on National Public Radio.

“Reference books are records of our collective memories; agreed truths about the past and the facts of our world,” Dettmer said. “As the role of the book in contemporary society is waning and being replaced by digital information, we are losing these unchallenged records of truth. Our collective memories are now vulnerable to distortion and manipulation through selective memories often used for personal or political control.

“The printed book is a fixed, linear format, perfect for a singular narrative disconnected from outside distractions but inadequate to fully reflect and report on a changing world with multiple voices and perspectives. At the same time, it is important to have records of history and absolute truths that cannot be easily manipulated and changed.”

Dettmer has exhibited internationally at institutions including the Museum of Arts and Design in New York; The Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.; the High Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art, both in Atlanta; the Chicago Cultural Center, the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art. In 2014, he was the subject of a 10-year retrospective at the Hermann Geiger Foundation in Cecina, Italy. Dettmer is represented by P.P.O.W in New York.

“This show reflects the focus of my work with books as a cultural material and sculptural object,” Dettmer said. “I seek to honor the book’s role and its past while illustrating both the exciting and troubling potentials of an intangible future.

“Reference books are transformed, reconnected into new forms, and excavated to expose a mass of fragmented and disjointed associations. Encyclopedia sets merge and disperse into new patterns that connect cross-cultural references of past symbols and artifacts. Books become sculpture, text becomes image, and words become objects. Century-old political books on our founding fathers are edited and repurposed to question once-assumed truths, expose the slipperiness of language, and present anxieties on the present instability of truth. The narrative is broken into bytes and bits. Images become representations of themselves, broken from context, untied from their assignments. Alternate histories and newfangled fictions prevail.“

Dertailed image of book delicately cut to create artwork
Brian Dettmer, “New New Standards” (detail), 2016, hardcover books, acrylic varnish, 73½” x 7” x 4”

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