Monday, May 28, 2012


Marco Breuer, "Untitled (C-1166)" (2012)
chromogenic paper, exposed, folded, burned
14 3/8 x 11 3/8 inches

A Man Without a Camera

By John Yau

Marco Breuer is best known for the photographs that he makes without using a camera. (He does other sorts of photography, but this body of work is largely what we know about his endeavors). Rather than pointing at a moment that is gone, and wresting fixity from flux, as photographs are said to do, Breuer acknowledges the triumph of instability, with its attendant manifestations of destruction and demise.

By subjecting the photograph’s material nature to a variety of physical interventions (heat, folding, scratching), Breuer subverts the timelessness we associate with the photographic image, while conveying time’s ravaging effects on the photograph itself. Nothing escapes infinity’s embrace. (The other photographer who recognizes this incontrovertible fact is Miroslav Tischy, who, in nearly every other way, resides on the opposite end of the spectrum from Breuer.)

*   *   *

For Breuer, sublime beauty and stark terror are inseparable. This is what the poet Rainer Maria Rilke famously wrote in the first “Duino Elegy:”
….     For beauty is nothing but
the beginning of terror, that we are still able to bear,
and we revere it so, because it calmly disdains
to destroy us.
The universe’s disdain for life is the lucid mirror Breuer looks into — as well as holds up to us. His scarred sheets of luminous paper exist on the brink between here (the present) and there (the future, which is all-consuming infinity). The idea that one can make something eternal may be a necessary fiction, but Breuer recognizes it as necessary nonetheless. His consciousness of time’s dominion is what distinguishes his photographs from the work of photographers who don’t use a camera (Adam Fuss).

For all of their affinities, there is a distinction that I would like to make between Breuer and Rilke. Rilke’s “Duino Elegies” brim with longing. The poet has shaped a deep, inchoate cry into a most beautiful and poignant music. Breuer’s photographs are irreparably scarred. They are intimations of mortality, the beginnings of time’s answer to Rilke’s question: “Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the Angelic/Orders?” The feelings of anonymity that Breuer’s work embraces — the folds he makes in his photographs could be done by anyone — subverts the lyric “I” animating Rilke’s poems. Breuer questions the "I," rather than denying it, as so many theorists, who believe in historical time rather than real time, do.

*   *   *

Marco Breuer was born in Landshut, Germany in 1966 (a decade after Andreas Gursky, who was born in Leipzig in 1955). He first came to New York in 1990 and, like many others before him, used the city’s diverse resources to educate himself: he learned papermaking, bookbinding and printmaking at different places, as well as spent a lot of time in the Museum of Modern Art’s print study room. After traveling back and forth between New York and Germany, he moved here in 1993.

In his insightful and informative essay, “The Material in Question” in Early Recordings (Aperture, 2007), Mark Alice Durant writes about Gursky, Thomas Ruff and Thomas Struth — all of whom were students of Hilla and Bern Becher at the Kunstakademie Dusseldorf — as becoming "the near-exclusive representatives of German photographic practice. And theirs was a style to which Breuer’s modest, economical, and more personal works were almost diametrically opposed."
By advancing that there is only one correct position occupied by those working in a certain medium, the marketplace and other institutions knowingly help suppress, overlook and ignore the heated dialogue unfolding among various artists. The effect is deleterious to the situation, if only because it encourages viewers to develop habits of seeing and thinking that sidestep the questions artists fold into their work.


In Condition, his current exhibition at Von Lintel Gallery, Breuer is showing sixteen works. All of them were made of chromogenic sheets, the chemically-layered paper used to make color photographs or C-prints, which Breuer subjected to a range of conditions: exposure; folding; heat; scratching; abrasion. In earlier bodies of work, he chewed and sanded the paper. He once fired a shotgun into a box of paper, curious to see what would happen. He is a rigorous and relentless experimenter.

The works in the show are divided into two color groups: largely black and luminous turquoise blue. I think of them as the photographer’s equivalents of labor and leisure.

The photographs are vertical rectangles of varying sizes, with none bigger than 32 x 25 inches.  In the ones where black is the predominant color, Breuer often repeatedly folded the paper according to a simple mathematical progression (always in half, for example). Opened back up and smoothed out, the paper would be a grid made of deep creases. Exposing the black paper to light as well as heating its surface caused other changes and colors to emerge. Rather than preserving a moment in a photograph and making it seem timeless, the grid structure, the abrasions and gouged surfaces, underscores that the photograph has endured time.  The grid also evokes labor, the same thing done over and over.

Marco Breuer, "Untitled (C-1178)"
Marco Breuer, "Untitled (C-1178)" (2012), chromogenic paper, burned, 
31 3/4 x 25 1/2 inches

 These effects further the anonymity implied in the authorship of these photographs.  The various processes and changes that Breuer initiates don’t convey touch or any of the states we associate with drawing.  And yet, the marks certainly don’t feel arbitrary or accidental. I feel as if I am looking at — scrutinizing, really — detritus, which evokes all the photographs that have been taken and are now lost or destroyed. Or perhaps I am examining the residue of an unnamed catastrophe. These are some of associations that come to mind while looking at Breuer’s work, inflecting my experience of them.

Read full review @ HYPERALLERGIC




Thursday, May 10, 2012

MARCO BREUER | Featured Interview — ARTLOG

Marco Breuer: Photography Without a Camera

Tiffany Jow

Marco Breuer,  
Untitled (C-1178), 2012
chromogenic paper, burned. 
Courtesy of the artist and Von Lintel Gallery, New York.
Over the course of his twenty-year career, Marco Breuer has made a name for himself as a camera-less photographer. Less concerned with how photography captures a subject and more with the uncharted territory in the very materiality of photography, the conceptually driven German artist uses coal, sandpaper, heat guns, burning swaths of cotton, electric frying pans, and other unexpected objects to lacerate photographic paper in various ways. The exquisite results mimic constellations, explosions, midnight city skylines, tie-dye, and other natural wonders that expose every detail, abrasion, and color shift. Unlike traditional photographs, Breuer’s are truly one of a kind.

Von Lintel Gallery unveils Breuer’s latest series on May 10 in an exhibition titled Condition. Here, photographic color paper is manipulated with heat, light, and manual scouring, making way for new colors and electrifying effects. Photographic sketches and slashed thirty-by-forty-inch prints will also be on view. We caught up with the artist on the week of the show’s opening to learn more about the exhibition and what led him to his distinctive examination of photographic practice.

How are these works different from what you’ve done previously?

They are part of an ongoing attempt to strip down the photographic process, to remove the distractions of equipment, and to force imagery out of photographic paper itself. I am interested in the intersection of photography and drawing: the negotiation of the illusionistic space of photography versus the concrete space of the physical mark.

How did you achieve the electric blue color that dominates much of the show?
The blue is the chromogenic paper’s response to the orange glow of the heating element. In the vast majority of works I do not chose colors: they are the result of the parameters I set. When I have to make a choice, as in a contact print, I try to make it not about color, like dialing 0/0/0 in the enlarger.

Marco Breuer
Untitled (C-1166), 2012
chromogenic paper, exposed, folded, burned
Courtesy of the artist and Von Lintel Gallery, New York.

Do you feel misrepresented when people refer to you as a photographer?
Not at all.

How did you first come up with the concept that now drives your methodology of art-making?
After six years of photography school I had heard every rule in the book. While that was helpful for a solid technical grounding, it did get in the way of true exploration. My 100 Tage thesis project was an attempt to get all of that education out of my system. I tried to literally make all those images stored in my head, to get to the point where I had to dig deeper, could no longer rely on what I knew (or had been told). Ultimately, I needed to tweak the medium of photography to make it work for me, shift from the standard mode of illustration of preconceived notions to an actual investigation of the conditions of the photographic medium.

Read full interview @ ARTLOG


MARCO BREUER | Review in Lookbooks

ART: Diving into its pool @ PULSE

By Frank Exposito

I suppose I wasn’t the only one envisioning myself on a beach this past weekend. In our preview for the seventh edition of the PULSE Contemporary Art Fair, which went on from May 3rd through the 6th, we harped about the weather anomalies occurring in New York that have had their disorienting effect on even the savviest of dressers. I myself, though admittedly not the most adaptive, still thought a corduroy blazer would do for the first gloomy day at PULSE. But, when I came to find the anomalies now inside, I was forced to reconsider my sartorial choices, abandoning restraint in a heat that emanated from the vibrancy of the work put on display, visible from far away in the spacious and inviting layout of PULSE’s interior at the Metropolitan Pavilion. Thankfully, they were also serving plenty of water.

At first, in the periphery as one walked in, Marco Breuer’s hydrating turquoise introduced itself from a corner, like a mirage suddenly appearing between desert dunes. We’ve already mentioned Melanie Willhide’s Untitled pool from 2011 that sat close by in Von Lintel’s space, its pulsing red splicing summer bodies. But, the ghost in the machine that inspired the work post computer theft and data retrieval shares more than just a saturated commonality with Breuer’s. The same mystery of process is present in his chlorinated pools that come instead in their usual Caribbean color, crisp and clear in Untitled (C-1178) of 2012. Made completely in the dark and then revealed whole in the light, Breuer carves blindly into photographic paper with the heated coils of an electric frying pan to make these pieces, cooking up an image as it were with the lights off. He innovatively conducts photography as drawing, burning the fully formed medium in vindictive purging. Instead of anticipated destruction, an artwork is born out of transitory sublimation—darkness making bright light, handwork evaporating in its luminosity like the  steam rising from a pot of boiling water.

Read more @ Lookbook

Thursday, May 3, 2012

MARCO BREUER | CONDITION - Opening Reception Thurs May 10, 6—8 PM

Marco Breuer
Untitled (C-1178)
, 2012
chromogenic paper, burned
31 3/4 x 25 1/2 in (80.7 x 64.8 cm)
Von Lintel Gallery is pleased to announce a solo exhibition of recent photogenic drawings by Marco Breuer.

For this new series, Breuer worked in and outside of the darkroom, exposing photographic color paper to heat, light, and physical abrasion. Drawing implements included modified hot plates and the guts of electric frying pans. This exhibition presents works ranging from small photographic sketches to heavily burned and distressed 30 by 40-inch prints. Every individual piece constitutes a search, a move away from the given, a test of the materials' limits. The delicate lines and exquisite surfaces are what make these works so luminous and dynamic.

In his 20-year career, Breuer has examined fundamental questions of photographic form and practice. He continues this exploration in Condition by disrupting the figure/ground relationship of conventional photography, literally fusing image and support, rendering them inseparable, one and the same. Scarred and lacerated, the works become alloys of light, heat, and physical contact.

Marco Breuer has exhibited widely throughout the United States and Europe. His work is collected by over 25 public institutions worldwide including the Museum of Modern Art in New York; the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard University; the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles: and the Staatsgalerie in Stuttgart, Germany.

Breuer was awarded a Guggenheim fellowship in 2006, and several residencies at the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire. In 2007 Aperture published a monograph of his work titled Early Recordings. Breuer's work has been reviewed in numerous publications including Artforum, ARTnews, Art in America, New Yorker, and Brooklyn Rail.