Robert Breer

Robert Breer "A founding member of the American avant-garde," Robert Breer was most well known for his films, which combine abstract and representational painting, hand-drawn rotoscoping, original 16mm and 8mm film footage, photographs, and other materials. His aesthetic philosophy and technique were influenced by an earlier generation of abstract filmmakers that included Hans Richter, Viking Eggeling, Walter Ruttmann, and Fernand Léger, whose work he discovered while living in Europe. Breer was also influenced by the concept of Neo-plasticism as described by Piet Mondrian and Vasarely. After experimenting with cartoon animation as a child, he started making his first abstract experimental films while living in Paris from 1949 to 1959, a period during which he also showed paintings and kinetic sculptures at galleries such as the renowned Galerie Denise René. Breer explained some of the reasons behind his move from painting to filmmaking in a 1976 interview:
This was 1950 or '51... I was having trouble with a concept, a very rigid notion about painting that I was interested in, that I was involved with, and that was the school of Mondrian. [...] The notion that everything had to be reduced to the bare minimum, put in its place and kept there. It seemed to me overly rigid since I could, at least once a week, arrive at a new 'absolute.' I had a feeling there was something there that suggested change as being a kind of absolute. So that's how I got into film.
—Robert Breer, Transcription of 'Screening Room with Robert Breer (1976)'

On Air: Blazes (1961, 16 mm)

A continuous explosion. Breer made one hundred basic images, hundred pictures created by gestural brushstrokes, and made them switch positions for four thousand frames. This film is Breer’s last to rigorously pursue the image by images experiment with wholly opposed single frames - his so-called ‘consecutive pointillist approach.’


After Art education at Stanford University (BA in 1949), Robert Breer starts his career in painting. In 1949 he moves to Paris where he joins the Denise Rene Gallery. In 1952, Breer realises his first film and then subsequently decides to cease painting and in 1959 begins making mutoscopes. Back to the U.S., he settles in New York and exhibits moving self-propelled sculptures at the Bonino Gallery from 1965. In 1969 he is awarded the Max Ernst Prize at the Oberhausen Film Festival (West Germany). In 1968, Robert Breer initiates and participates with EAT Group in the Pepsi-Cola Pavilion for the 1970 Worlds Fair Exhibition in Osaka, Japan. In 1971, his film style shifts from abstract to more eclectic mode including use of rotoscoping and photographed images. In 1973, he begins teaching filmmaking at the Cooper Union. His first Retrospective at the Whitney Museum is held in 1980. One year later, he is commissioned for a large mural on the outside of Film Forum in New York. In 1999, Robert Breer exhibits all together paintings, sculptures and films at Staff USA/AC Project Room, New York and in 2000 one of his large motorized sculpture entitled "Float" (acquired previously in 1970 by the Museum of Modern Art) is on exhibit for the exhibition ‘Useless Science’ in its garden. In Paris, the National Museum of Modern Art, Centre Georges Pompidou, invites him in 2001 for a film retrospective in combination with his solo exhibition at gb agency, Paris. His film "Fuji", is registered in 2002 in the permanent film collection of the Library of Congress, Washington, DC. In 2005, Robert Breer received the prestigious Stan Brakhage Vision Award in Denver, Colorado. More recently, he has exhibited his films in the show titled ‘Le Mouvement des images’ at the Museum of Modern Art in France (2006). His sculptures were shown at Basel Kunsthalle in the exhibition ‘Poor Thing’ in 2007. ‘The Death of the Audience’ at Viennese Secession has presented in 2009 a set of new sculptures. In the Fall 2010, will be presented solo show ‘Robert Breer: Floats’ in CAPC, Bordeaux. A retrospective touring show will be dedicated to his work starting in 2011 at Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead and Tinguely Museum in Basel. On View: TACET - group show - Musée des Beaux-Arts, Dole - Until September 8, 2013 BALTIC Bites - Robert Breer - Spanning BALTIC's Level 3 and Level 4 Galleries, this major exhibition of American artist Robert Breer brought together his paintings, ground-breaking films and radical sculptures from the last 60 years. Considered one of the most influential animator/film-makers in history, this is the artist’s most comprehensive exhibition to date. Watch the video.


Robert Breer - Fuji (1974) Robert Breer - 69 (1968) Robert Breer - A Man And His Dog Out For Air (1957) - More films by Robert Breer at Ubu Web