Robert Breer

Robert Breer

This drawing by Robert Breer is a notated plan, it was produced in 1969 and in some ways could be considered a prophetic vision of the workings of a future city. It is pencil and felt tip on paper, I don’t know the size but similar drawings a 30 x 45cm. It’s a little like a pitch for the setting of a sci-fi film, some hand written notes on the right hand side of the drawing support this idea, you can almost hear him speaking; ‘In this town everything moves around, it doesn’t matter where you leave things they aren’t there when you come back. Fish swim by overhead. Street signs change every five minutes, the sun does loop the loop like Miami? L.A.?’ These notes are additional directorial instructions to the drawn action; a fire hydrant falls over, some kind of dog jumps, a tree shudders, the sky is the sea, buildings are simple cubes and move around, some powered by what seem at first to be quickly drawn propellers at each corner but then the word ‘ELKS’ across the front of one cube invites us to consider them as antlers. I read this drawing as Breer’s own visual ‘note to self’ for an animation or film idea, there are arrows suggesting the direction of movement of individual parts of the drawing, directions to be applied later in sequential drawings perhaps. What seems to be implied is a drawing that moves, time based but without a beginning or end, a loop. Breer is one of those artist that defies easy categorisation, ostensibly operating in and around movements and artists now considered key within the late 20th century, but always remaining independent and outside of any historical posturing, never becoming so successful that his work became lazy. All of which make his wonderful and understated experiments in animation, sculpture, painting and drawing even more timeless and relevant. His films for which he is perhaps best known have all the attributes of a truly experimental practice, they are uninhibited to the point of inventing a new visual language where figuration and abstraction merge. The structure is non-narrative, frame by frame but abstract, only suggesting partial ideas and objects. Incorporating many different approaches and materials in his films including collage, drawing, photography and sound, Breer explored the technological advances of his time.

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