Art In America

Robert Breer

at Simon Preston,
301 Broome Street

Everything in this concise overview of Robert Breer’s career feels alive, or at least animated. Breer (1926–2011) created abstract paintings until the early 1950s, when he turned to film, a “medium that permitted mixing,” as he told P. Adams Sitney, legendary chronicler of American avant-garde cinema. Breer’s stop-motion animations, including 70 (1970), projected here, revive abstract art with a jolt of electric energy. The hand-drawn or painted frames flash on-screen at a frantic pace. Breer went to the opposite extreme in his decidedly unhurried sculptures. A sleek cylinder, two Styrofoam blocks, and a crumpled plastic sheet shuffle across the gallery floor, propelled by hidden motors. The roll is so slow that it’s hard to perceive, and it can take a few minutes to notice that the objects in this eclectic array have shifted positions relative to each other and the gallery architecture. Then again, even the walls here are closing in; an L-shaped structure that looks like a standard white-cube drywall edifice drifts up and down the length of the gallery, changing the dimensions of the projection of 70 as it glides. Like all of Breer’s work, the whole situation feels improvisatory, open to unexpected possibilities. —William S. Smith


Pictured: Robert Breer: Float, 1972, resin, paint, wood, motor, and batteries, 19¾ by 39⅜ inches. Courtesy Simon Preston, New York.

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