Friday, May 25, 2012

Marco Breuer, Condition @Von Lintel

JTF (just the facts): A total of 16 works, framed in white and unmatted, and hung against white walls in the single room gallery space. All of the works are made of chromogenic paper, which has been alternately exposed, folded, scratched, scraped and burned. Physical dimensions range from roughly 10x8 to 39x29, and each work is unique. All of the works are dated 2012. A small catalog of the exhibition is available from the gallery. (Installation shots at right, along with two up-close detail images.)

Comments/Context: Photography and drawing are two disciplines that don't seem, at first glance, to have much natural affinity for each other. While some photographers have experimented with long exposures to "draw" with light (using flashlights, candles or even lasers) and others have manipulated darkroom chemicals to produce handmade gestural effects, for the most part, these artistic methods have generally tended to stay separate. There is something intrinsically expressive and immediate about putting pen or pencil to paper that the multi-step mechanical process of photography wasn't really designed for.
Marco Breuer is one of the few photographers who has consistently tried to make these two artistic circles overlap, merging the light sensitivity and chemical processes of photography with the physicality of direct interaction with the paper of drawing, via countless unexpectedly ingenious methods over the years. His newest works find him tinkering with electric hot plates and frying pans, which he has uncoiled and straightened out into magic wands that glow with intense heat. Using these makeshift tools like a conductor's baton or a calligrapher's brush, he has mixed hand-drawn motion with the effects of heat and light on photographic paper to create works that explore interlocking layers of line, texture, and color.

The two up-close image fragments at left and right provide samples of how Breuer has used the wands to interact with the paper. Horizontal and vertical lines are etched and burned into the surface (sometimes after a step of folding the paper into grids of rectangles), while light from the orange heat turns some of the backgrounds a bright, shifting, swimming pool blue. The movement is often all-over expressive and passionate (almost manic in some cases), then receding to something more subtle, dispersed and melancholy. Burn marks, cat scratches, and thin scars create a spectrum of chance colors when interacting with the chemical coated papers: yellows and browns give way to misty light blues and wispy greys, with splashes of vibrant red or purple scraped away like a Richter squeegee. A few add another layer of colored exposure, an unexpected hint of green underneath the jittering lines.

Breuer's unconventional methods bring rough physicality back to photography, where the final image object shows the literal signs of its making. These abstract works have a sense of touch, of surface topography, of finger driven carving. Overall, I was impressed by the innovative originality in the range of elegance and complexity in these works, and Breuer has clearly shown once again that the idea of merging photography and drawing is altogether less improbable and foolhardy than we might have assumed.

Collector's POV: The works in this show are priced between $5500 and $19500, based on size, and many were already sold when I visited the show. Breuer's work has very little secondary market history, so gallery retail is still the best option for those collectors interested in following up.

Rating: * (one star) GOOD (rating system described here)

Transit Hub:
  • Interview: Artlog (here)
Marco Breuer, Condition
Through June 23rd

Von Lintel Gallery
520 West 23rd Street
New York, NY 10011

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