New York

Robert Breer


Robert Breer looks like a real puzzler—though I don’t think he really is one, but simply a talented electronics designer. He starts out where so many minimal sculptors begin, with an elementary structure, but he then motorizes it. The locomotive bent in these works aids an otherwise straightforward neo-Platonic idealization of elementary form. The transformation of the objects into slow-moving “floats” becomes the gross message of the exhibition. In the largest work, several green pencil-sided columns, the movement is so slow as to suggest the constant final positions of the columns, rather than their aleatory displacements. The fact that the columns are capable of progress across the floor points to the Dadaistic inheritance in Breer’s work—ultimately their relationship is based on pure chance so that in some perfect, undreamed-of moment, they might even line up in single file.

In a related way, Breer is also interested in the idea of deflection. In one work four motorized ceramic mounds gently cross and bump up against each other as well as the rim of the table they move upon. The image reminds one of the old shell game, only now the pea is the tiniest mound and exposed for all to see. In another large piece, three bulky green carton-like pieces slowly elbow their way around a closed rectangle. Each deflection is slow enough for us to read as a fixed instant in a vast Cubist collage. The most recognizably traditionalist piece of Dadaism sets up a long track which begins green at one end and ends up cream at the other. A near semicircular float begins its ride down the path like a toy car (others get under foot during the exhibition) and slowly completes the track in a twenty minute trajectory at the end of which it knocks down a ceramic cup, either green or cream, onto the floor. The last moments are, of course, agonizing. Can it be that Breer’s motorization and deflection is really involved with a strong nihilistic streak? If so, he is even more indentured to Dada than one at first imagined.

––Robert Pincus-Witten