The Art of the Brick

The Art of the Brick

06th May 2016

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, then you’ll be aware of the series of articles that we’ve been doing on the humble brick, one of the most common building materials on the planet.  We’ve come across some quite fascinating and interesting facts about bricks and seen them being used in many ways, for many purposes.  While doing the research for these articles, we came across a use for bricks that’s absolutely mind blowing – as an artist’s material.

Now we’re all probably familiar with the notorious work of art by Carl Andre commonly known as “the pile of bricks” which is currently housed in the Tate Modern Gallery on Bankside.  The work of art is actually called “Equivalent VIII” and when it was first exhibited at the Tate Gallery in Millbank in 1976 it drew much criticism in the press because it looked as if taxpayers’ money had been used to pay an extortionate price for a collection of bricks.  However, the resulting controversy actually drew the public into the Tate as everybody wanted to see what the fuss was all about and a lively debate ensued on what does and doesn’t represent art in the modern age.  This was great news for the art world as a whole, public debate and interest only serves to make art more accessible to the man on the street.

What we’ve come across lately, however, cannot be mistaken for “just a pile of bricks” and the ingenuity, skill and imagination of the artist involved is plain for all to see.   Brad Spencer is a sculptor based in North Carolina who works with bricks to create some really unusual and intriguing works of art.  With a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in painting and drawing from the University of North Carolina and a Master of Fine Arts degree in Sculpture under his belt, Brad began to experiment with bas relief sculpture in the medium of bricks.

 

Brad carves unfired clay brick material in his studio, then deconstructs his sculpture brick by brick in order to have it fired before reconstructing the work using the fired bricks at the installation site of the piece.  When the works are being installed in public spaces, Brad is generous to the point of allowing passers-by to set a brick here and there with mortar, involving the public in the works of art which grace their local environments.                                      

The two works of art we’re including here are “The Path of Becoming”, which rambles along the pavement in downtown Greenville.  It’s a collection of three sculptures – “Emerge”, “Connect” and “Transcend” – which collectively relate the history of the City of Greenville in an allegorical format.  A red brick paver path representing the City’s Reedy River connects the three works, leading the viewer along the path of the City’s past.  The second piece we’re featuring is called “Life is an Open Book” in Charlotte, North Carolina and features children clambering on a giant-sized book built from bricks. 

Brad’s work is a delightful use of the humble building brick, giving us food for thought when it comes to considering what a versatile medium the clay brick can be.  We’re all used to bricks being used in the construction industry for building walls, that seeing them being used to create public works of art is a novel and interesting experience.If you’re a regular reader of this blog, then you’ll be aware of the series of articles that we’ve been doing on the humble brick, one of the most common building materials on the planet.  We’ve come across some quite fascinating and interesting facts about bricks and seen them being used in many ways, for many purposes.  While doing the research for these articles, we came across a use for bricks that’s absolutely mind blowing – as an artist’s material.