A visual journey through the public sculpture, art and architecture of Modernist Britain
From Simon Phipps, the curator behind the New Brutalism Instagram account and the author of Brutal London and Finding Brutalism
At the end of the Second World War, Britain’s cities and communities desperately needed rebuilding. As new houses and public spaces were planned, communal engagement was considered to be vital to social recovery. Public art was thought to provide the means to create this engagement.
This era of post-war progressive civic architecture and art gave rise to some of the UK’s most important pieces of public art. From Richard Serra’s Fulcrum in London’s Broadgate to Barbara Hepworth’s works across the country, to the less well-known Cumisky mural in Skelmersdale and the vivid Schottlander shapes in Warwick, these works of art have become familiar companions; backdrops to British lives.
There is an urgency to catalogue these works, as much of Britain’s Modernist public art is at risk – not to mention that which has already been removed, vandalised or left to crumble. In Concrete Poetry, Simon Phipps photographs, explores and celebrates Britain’s post-war public art, placing it in context and considering its future. Complete with incredible photography, an introduction by Phipps, an essay by Darren Umney and detailed captions, Concrete Poetry honours not only of the artworks themselves, but also the community spirit of the age from which they came.
Designed by creative agency Studio Small, Concrete Poetry is a uniquely beautiful book that is as inventive as its subject matter.
‘With this collection, Simon Phipps has, through his tenacious handling of both the space and place of each subject, extended his artistic exploration of the everyday and, at the same time, provided a documentary record of the steadily diminishing and disappearing artistic assets of this country. What makes the record especially poignant is that it is not only the works of art that are threatened, but also the fragile but tangible humanitarian concern and community spirit they embody.’ Darren Umney
‘Gems of British Brutalism and Modernism are under threat from time and tide, as much as the wrecking ball – luckily, photographer Simon Phipps has been documenting these harsh beauties for his book, Concrete Poetry . . . From the Denys Wilkinson Building to the Blackwall Tunnel’s ventilation shafts, the UK is studded with post-war concrete odes to a better tomorrow. For those of us who don’t have the time to trot around the country, ticking these pioneering structures off their list, Phipps’ book is an essential coffee-table tour.’ Wired magazine