In February 1976, a New York Times editor by the name of Robert B. Semple Jr. wrote about
At the time, the Tate defended its responsibility to exhibit examples of “work which is being made now.” For the then New York Times’ London Bureau Chief Robert B. Semple Jr., there was entertainment in the controversy and the ensuing British national debate and, in the end, he observed some Tate visitors actually liked Carl Andre’s stack of uncemented
Fast forward a few decades, and it seems we’re all a lot more relaxed about bricks being controversial, becoming art in all their wonderful simplicity, and being more than only a conventional, sturdy building material. The Tate continues to behold Equivalent VIII as one of the most important pieces of its time, and creatives further afield have followed suit—whether minimalist, maximalist, symbolic, ironic, or otherwise.
From the high-brow, to the innovative, and some more tongue-in-cheek, here are just a few of our favourite artistic applications of bricks and brickwork.
Photography © Stephen O’Flaherty.
From the Knees of my Nose to the Belly of my Toes by Alex Chinneck // Known for upending banal structures and everyday architecture like carparks, telegraph poles, and brick building facades—British designer and artist
Six Pins and half a dozen needles by Alex Chinneck // Alex revisited bricks in a recent permanent public sculptural intervention slash building façade titled Six pins and half a dozen needles. Twenty metres high and designed to resemble a torn page, the piece is made up of 4,000 red bricks and is intended to reference the building’s history—it was home to a publisher for over twenty years.
Photography by Amir Ali Ghafari.
PAUSE by Ashari Architects // Designed as a pavilion for an architectural installation in Iran in 2017, PAUSE wielded the potential of bricks as an atmospheric device. A spiral of hanging bricks suspended within a large cube structure encouraged visitors to pause, and peer up into the sky above.
Hy-Fi by The Living // Dreamt up by New York City-based studio
Each bio-brick was grown rather than manufactured, using a combination of agricultural byproducts like corn and mushroom mycelium—a kind of natural digestive glue. Titled Hy-Fi, its twisted turrets played host to MoMA Ps1’s summer events as part of the gallery’s Young Architects Program.
Espacio Transmisor Del Túmulo by Toni Gironés // Somewhere in the Lleida province in Spain is Seró—a tiny town in which the remains of stone megalith dating back to the third millennium BC (about 4,800 years ago) was recently unearthed. In tribute to the discovery, Catalan architect
Images © Filip Dujardin.
The exhibition space as a pedestal for itself by Filip Dujardin // Belgian artist and photographer
Rather than create models or life size versions of his science fiction buildings, Filip created a series of red brick ‘interventions’ within the architecture of the gallery. “The brick walls nestle like parasites in, on, over and behind the folds of the building and suggest how things could be, what might be coming,” he wrote in a statement.
Images © Filip Dujardin.
Treasures of a nation by Filip Dujardin // Filip recreated the same red brick interventions for
“By walking through the space new spatial perceptions emerged between the architectural fragments and recomposes the original space in the head,” he wrote. “A solid room became unstable, a mental space collapsed.”
Images © Matteo Mezzadri.
Images courtesy of Jose Dávila and
Each piece focused on the fundamental building blocks of architecture—hefty slabs of marble, granite, timber, and brick, suspended by coloured commercial tie down straps in order to appear to defy gravity. For Promise of a Better World, Jose arranged a set of uncemented bricks not unlike Carl Andre before him, this time resting white neon frames against the structure, neutralizing its boundaries and softening its weight.
Image courtesy of David Mach.
Brick Train Darlington by David Mach // Commissioned in 1994 by Darlington Borough Council in Northern England, Scottish sculptor
Images courtesy of Dan Stockholm.
By Hand by Dan Stockholm // Meant as a sort of memorial to his later father, Danish artist
Images courtesy of Jorge Méndez Blake.
The Castle by Jorge Méndez Blake // Based in Guadalajara in Mexico, architect slash artist
Brickolage by Kuehn Malvezzi // Similarly centred on the clout of bricks and literature is a three-part furniture series by Italian-German studio,
Bricks by Anna Dominiguez and Omar Sosa // Spanish art director, publisher and graphic designer,
Photography © Max Siedentopf.
The Multipurpose Brick by Max Siedentopf // If you haven’t got it by now, bricks are versatile! Photographer and artist