Chicago Art Review

Brian Dettmer @ Packer Schopf Gallery by smoakes
April 9, 2009, 2:45 pm
Filed under: Chicago, Openings, Reviews

On the day after the first Thursday of April of 2009 I had the opportunity to take in the amalgamation of reading and scissors that was Brian Dettmer’s exhibition at Packer Schopf Gallery. Dettmer has made an art form of buying the book for its pictures. As a child I was taught picture books were merely the devil’s ploy to proliferate illiteracy. As an adult I have realized the tales were true, which makes it all the more satisfying to enjoy the tiny surprises Detmer’s work has in store.


Brian Dettmer, New Books of Knowledge

Brian Dettmer, New Books of Knowledge

For those of you who rely on silhouettes on street signs to know there may be business people walking, you will not be disappointed. Dettmer provides what might be described as illustration cliff notes of the books he has hollowed-out and sculpted. In a world where far too many people discard their medical /botanical dictionaries, Dettmer is a hero. While your old Stedman’s Medical Illustrations are rotting away in a landfill, works like New Book of Knowledge have rejuvenated the illustrations once dead in the hands of “read-once Johnys.”

Brian Dettmer


Dettmer has created entire worlds by singling out the images within each book he manipulates; Worlds you might find floating around in the Twilight Zone. It would be fair to say this accomplishment takes time. Completed in the last six months, the body of work shows a swift progression from 2 1/2D works like The Theatre to the triumphant book-stack sculpture, World Books.


Brian Dettmer


One may ask, “Why should I like this art, that which feeds on the carcass of literature?” Because you liked the Harry Potter movies, that’s why.

I give it a:


Brian Dettmer’s Adaptations runs April 3rd to May 9th at Packer Schopf Gallery.

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