Brick/Book: J. Abbott Miller and Design/Writing/Research

Third of three exhibitions focusing on aspects of design
July 18 – August 22, 1997
Main Gallery
Installation Views
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Press Release

As part of our on going attempt during the past year to incorporate aspects of design into the gallery program, Andrea Rosen Gallery presents Brick/Book, an installation and limited edition book created by J. Abbott Miller. On view July 18 through August 22, the installation consists of 525 books arranged in a series of masonry constructions. Each book is over 600 pages long, trimmed to the size of a standard brick. A reception will be held on Friday, July 25, 6-8 p.m.

Brick/Book reflects on the state of the printed word at the close of the twentieth century. For over five hundred years, the power and prestige of the book has relied on the permanence and standardization of its physical form. A cult of literacy was built on the ability to mass produce and preserve the printed word. Today, the brute material presence of the book is its greatest liability, while providing, perhaps, its strongest hope of survival.

The text of each Brick/Book consists of two words embossed on its covers: lay on one side, and lie on the other, referring to the active process of laying bricks (akin to reading or writing a text), and the passive state of being at rest (the repose that gives a library its wealth and a masonry structure its stability). The common confusion between laying and lying reflects the book's ambivalent status as object and subject of knowledge.

In addition to the 525 books included in the installation (a cube of bricks, in bricklayer's parlance), a limited edition of 105 books (a strap of bricks) is offered for sale at $105.00. The books in the limited edition are drilled through the interior with three 1 inch holes. The book includes no printed words or imagery; instead, its content is generated solely by the process of folding, cutting, gluing, embossing and drilling.


J. Abbott Miller is director of Design/Writing/Research, a studio that designs, edits, authors and publishes projects in a variety of media, including books, magazines, exhibitions, and the Web. Miller is editor and creative director of Twice, a semi-annual magazine about visual culture, published by Patsy Tarr. He is author of Design Writing Research: Writing of Graphic Design (1966), The Bathroom, the Kitchen and the Aesthetics of Waste (1922), Dimensional Typography (1977), and other books and articles on design and culture. In 1996 Miller received the New York Magazine Award, given to ten New Yorkers who have shaped the cultural life of the city.