Nancy Toomey Fine Art is pleased to announce an exhibition of works by Brian Dettmer entitled "Elegies," on view from September 4 to October 12, 2019.
"Elegies" is a meditation on our contemporary relationship to cultural histories, recorded facts, and machinated myths. In this exhibition, books are both the medium and subject. Reference books have become almost extinct in less than one generation and we are at a pivotal time in the way we record and distribute information. The screen has replaced the page. Information is now constantly refreshing and recording over itself–often leaving only traces of fragmented facts and past proclamations. Without a stable home to rest in, our agreed truths have been uprooted and are now subject to distortions, erasures, and intentional manipulations.
The work in this show presents the physical book as a memorializing monument, a departed body, and a symbol of truth. A metaphorical and sculptural autopsy has been performed to investigate the conditions that led to the book’s demise and the potential consequences of this loss; but these works are more poetic than practical. They are an elegy to the printed page and to the comfort and stability they provided as a vessel for truth. A sculptural manipulation of these facts into fictions reflects our current political condition while proposing the material as a misunderstood artifact from a different culture. It is a relic from another time or culture that we can now contemplate and try to understand as outsiders. The truth becomes a myth. These sculptures suggest a fabricated and parallel past in which the book as an object, and the text and imagery within, are both understood and misunderstood. Explored and exposed as icons and idols of fragmented and compressed data, they offer a more direct link to content through a saturation of simultaneous experiences.
The book and the internet flatten both time and space. Information and ideas are collected and compressed, allowing attitudes and styles from any era to become instantly available to the present. Dettmer’s sculptural interventions reflect this condensing of time, transforming into forms both primitive and modern. They are modern machines but also ancient fetishes. Greco-Roman architecture, Victorian imagery, Baroque ornamentation, Mid-Century Modernism, Dadaist collage, Pop graphics and Indigenous forms or art from the Americas, Africa and the Pacific islands are all reflected within the work through a newly negated hierarchy, providing new objects that are both iconoclastic and archival. They stand as monuments to the objectivity of truth. They become a more direct experience than the narratives hidden within. A compression and an expansion, they are timeless by being full of time.
Brian Dettmer was born in 1974 in Chicago, Illinois, and lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. Dettmer’s art has been the subject of solo exhibitions at numerous institutions including the Hermann Geiger Foundation, Cecina, Italy, Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia, Atlanta, GA, and Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art, Virginia Beach, VA. His works have been exhibited internationally in shows at the Museum of Arts and Design, NY, Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian Institute, Washington, D.C., Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago, IL, High Museum, Atlanta, GA, and Perez Art Museum, Miami, FL, among others. His sculptures can be found in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, DC, Art Institute of Chicago Ryerson and Burnham Libraries, IL, High Museum, GA, and Yale University Art Gallery, CT. He has lectured at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK, and New York Public Library, New York, NY, and given a TED Talk for the TED Youth Conference. Dettmer’s work has been featured in several publications and programs including The New York Times, The Guardian, The Telegraph, Chicago Tribune, Art News, Modern Painters, Wired, The Village Voice, Harper’s, CBS News, and NPR.
"Elegies" is Brian Dettmer’s third show with Nancy Toomey Fine Art.