Brian Dettmer is a biblio-sculptor and literary coroner. His book sculptures condense delicate leaves of a tired lexicon into jaw-dropping, articulate worlds.
Dettmer’s ability to salvage the outmoded and abandoned has achieved a level of meticulous sublimation at his recent show at Packer Schopf Gallery, “Adaptations,” a collection composed mostly of gutted and revived books. The fun, life-sized melted audio-cassette skeleton that greets you at the door is a harbinger of things to come: the books inside have been the victims of an autopsy, cavities gutted, save the most vital organs. A junky old set of encyclopedias is ravaged and reincarnated as handsome pictorial Cliff’s Notes, each picture’s wake carved out smooth as pearls. His scrupulous hand responds to images and texts worth remembering by boiling down subjects, like the aggregate scientist and his cloud of terms in “World Science,” or exposing a once-useful compendium of knowledge in a complex glossary of images, as in the boundless “Full Set of Funk,” a 9 1/2 foot long set of dissected encyclopedias.
Dettmer’s video installation, which animates his process with over 10,000 photos, is hindered only by the technology that makes the viewing possible. When the projector showing the video cut out on a Saturday afternoon, guests rushed to press the button that made it work. Even the modern technology that Dettmer’s work resists cannot dissuade the viewer’s curiosity. (Natalie Edwards)
Through May 9 at Packer Schopf Gallery, 942 W. Lake.