Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Like A Moth Flapping: Robert J. Hughes on Marco Breuer

"The limits of how life and objects are represented, even the very nature of how we see, have been at the heart of photography since its inception. And as the decades passed and photography matured, the realism of the photographic world – always a mutable concept given the way one could manipulate film – flapped like a moth against the libidinous light of abstract expressionism in the mid-20th century, which was not about representation at all, but being.

Yet the two forms coexisted in different corners. Think of the age of news magazines, when the world was represented in dramatic stills, or the clarity of an Irving Penn or Richard Avedon photographic composition of the 1950s – whether of a fashion model or an everyday object – and then think of how such works held their own opposite the Big Bang exuberance of Jackson Pollock or the numinous crepuscular gravity of Barnett Newman. You'd never think the two would meet.

Yet abstraction is at the heart of German artist Marco Breuer's photographs, which are photographs only in the sense that they use film. Breuer exposes photographic paper, then scratches or scores on it directly to allow patterns and colors to appear. These abstract works, unlike the enormous canvases of his midcentury painter forbears, are small and compact. They are reflections rather than statements, objects of iconic contemplation rather than explorations of immensity and freedom."

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