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Robert Breer
Selected Works

May 8 – June 25, 2014
6:00 PM until the park closes
High Line Channel 14, 14th Street Passage, on the High Line at West 14th Street

Robert Breer was an American experimental filmmaker, painter, and sculptor who spent the formative years of his career living, working, and exhibiting in Paris. An influential artist in the fields of kinetic sculpture and experimental filmmaking during the mid-to-late twentieth century, Breer made stop-motion films that grew out of a desire to imbue his paintings with movement. Rebelling against the rigidity of Modernist painting in the linear, reactionary mode of developing new art movements that was at the time à la mode, Breer decided to take change as his own modernist absolute, a choice which would lead him through kinetic sculpture to film.

Breer’s 16mm animated films range from colorfully choreographed geometric compositions to darker, visceral portrayals of the state of politics and popular culture in America in the 1960s through 1990s and are scattered with scenes and sound clips of baseball games, biplanes, and political speeches. Much of Breer’s work echoes memories of the American experience of the wars of the mid to late twentieth century. Employing a range of techniques, including collage, hand-drawn rotoscoping – a technique that involves tracing from frames of live film footage – interlaced still photographic images, and live 16mm film footage, Breer composes lively, nimble films that present an intimate, modest, and personal portrait of slices of shared lives and eras.

High Line Art presents a range of works that showcase the development of the artist’s career, which spanned the course of over 40 years. Form Phases 4 (1954), a silent film that bears a direct relationship to Breer’s early vibrant abstract painting practice, represents Breer’s earliest abstract animations. A later film, Gulls and Buoys (1972) enters into Breer’s more personal work, offering a lyrical portrait of a relaxing day at the seaside, though at times accented by the sound of biplanes overhead. A rotoscoped, itinerant work that follows the artist on a train trip through the mountains of Japan, Fuji (1974) is bookended by live film footage of the artist on his meandering locomotive journey.

Photos by Timothy Schenck

Robert Breer

Robert Breer (1926 – 2011) was a pioneer of avant-garde film animation. Recent solo exhibitions and screenings include the Contemporary Art Museum, St. Louis (2012); Museum Tinguely, Basel (2011); the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, United Kingdom (2011); and the CAPC, Musée d’Art Contemporain, Bordeaux (2010). Notable group exhibitions and screenings include El Hotel Electrico, MUHKA, Antwerp (2014); Une Brève histoire des lignes, Centre Pompidou-Metz, Metz (2012); Unwrapping History: Films from the Collection, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (2012); and Ghosts in the Machine, the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York (2012). Major biennials include the 6th Berlin Biennale (2010); SITE Santa Fe Biennial, New Mexico (2010); and the Whitney Biennial, New York (1985, 1983, 1982, 1977, 1973, 1971).


High Line Art is presented by Friends of the High Line and the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation. High Line Art is made possible by Donald R. Mullen, Jr. and The Brown Foundation, Inc. of Houston, with additional support from David Zwirner Gallery, and Vital Projects Fund, Inc. High Line Art is supported, in part, with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

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