Robert Breer

2 Mar — 23 Apr 2017 at Simon Preston Gallery in New York, United States

Robert Breer. Courtesy Simon Preston Gallery and gb agency, Paris.
Robert Breer. Courtesy Simon Preston Gallery and gb agency, Paris.
24 FEB 2017

Simon Preston Gallery is delighted to announce the first solo show at the gallery by Robert Breer (1926 – 2011). Kamikaze will open to the public on Thursday 2 March and run until 23 April, 2017.

The exhibition features work spanning over fifty years of Breer‘s experimental and prolific career. During his lifetime Breer was an influential filmmaker while also adopting a broad range of mediums from painting, sculpture and installation. Breer envisioned these works populating spaces as one distinct tapestry, not yet a convention at the time, a radical approach more akin to contemporary practice.

Time Out (1953), a hard edged, geometric painting influenced by neoplasticism, is the earliest work in the show. A thin painted black rectangle on the surface of the composition creates a subtle visual play within the frame of the canvas, already demonstrating Breer’s move away from the static orthodoxy and into cinematic movement. Nearly twenty years later, by then an accomplished animator, Breer extends this movement of abstract colorful forms in the animation titled 70. As with Breer’s earlier films, 70 is made through a process of stop-motion animation using thousands of unique hand-drawn index cards. Made with the discipline and tools of a painter – spray paint and a knife – the animation alternates between rigid forms and softer single frames. In a perpetual state of flux, the film vibrates within screen space, a mutation of dissolving flashes and contrasting colors. The high speed frame-to-frame changes create a strobing effect, shifting foreground and background, breaking a continuous sequence.

This method of interruption and movement expands into Breer’s minimalist sculptures or motorized ‘floats’, often incorporating industrial materials. In contrast to the rhythm of the animation, they gently maneuver around the gallery floor at imperceptible speeds. First exhibited in 1965 at Galeria Bonino, New York, ‘the objects were conceived as . . a composition which would constantly rearrange itself. Each float reverses its direction when it encounters resistance and in this way keeps moving regardless of space restrictions. By their consistent and slow movement I hope to put emphasis on change of position rather than motion itself.’ As these physical forms silently inhabit the gallery, Floating Wall (2009), a large motorized sculptural wall, slowly moves back and forth shifting the surrounding architecture. Its first presentation in the US, the sculpture creates an ever-changing exhibition space as works appear in and out of view. The destabilization of any fixed moment challenges our conventional methods of observation and forces our framing into real time and space. Breer weaves abstract forms seamlessly throughout mediums, whose movements challenge how each are perceived.

Robert Breer (b. 1926, Detroit – 2011, Tucson). Retrospectives of his work have been exhibited at Sharjah Art Foundation, 2016; Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead and Museum Tinguely, Basel, 2011; Institute of Contemporary Art, London, 1983; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 1980.Over his extensive and acclaimed sixty year career solo exhibitions were held at gb agency, Paris;Contemporary Art Museum, St. Louis, 2012; CAPC, Bordeaux, 2010; MNAM, Centre Pompidou, Paris, 2001; Staff USA / AC Project Room, New York 1999; Musée d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain, Nice, 1998; Albright Knox Gallery, Buffalo 1977; Galeria Bonino, New York 1965-70. Other highlights include Pepsi Pavilion for Expo ’70 in Osaka, Japan; a project with the Public Art Fund, Times Square, New York, 1985 and Le Mouvement, Galerie Denise René, Paris, 1955. Recent group exhibitions include Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf, 2016; Kiev Biennale, Ukraine, 2015; Aspen Art Museum, USA, 2015; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 2015; The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 2014; New Museum, New York, 2012; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, USA, 2010 & 2012; The Secession, Vienna, 2009; Witte de With, Rotterdam, 2008; ‘Le Mouvement des Images’ at the MNAM, Centre Pompidou, Paris, 2006 among many others. Recent solo screenings include High Line Art Program, New York, 2014; Harvard University, Cambridge, 2008; Anthology Film Archives, New York, 2008.

Breer was a founding member of the New York Film-Makers Cooperative and taught at Cooper Union from 1971-2001. His collaborative approach brought him in touch with popular culture through projects as far ranging as The Children’s Television Workshop and the band New Order.