New York

Hans Breder

Schreiber/Cutler Contemporary Art

Hans Breder makes art that is spiritualist in intention. That is, he means to articulate an indwelling power, beyond reason and unreason, and by definition too labile to be managed. In this way he wrestles with the essential problem of nonobjective art. Like many other practitioners of spiritualist abstraction, he assumes that the necessary first step is to clear the pictorial deck of unspiritual scenery—the world of profane objects. Geometrical objects are one alternative, as is liberating gesture: the most ambitious spiritualist art attempts some union of the two. Usually the gesture accents the geometry, enlivening it into epiphany. Nonobjective spiritualist art also tends to be intimate in scale—although not necessarily so—to enforce meditative intensity and concentration.

In Breder, the spiritualist intention is in line with the physicist David Bohm’s idea of implicate order, the notion that “each region contains a total structure ‘enfolded’ within it.” For Breder, the task of art—as a kind of thought—is not so much to unfold this enfolded structure, but to articulate the infolding. This involves creating more edges than a thing ordinarily needs to be visible, so that it becomes extraordinarily visible; that is, more force than form. Folding generates a sense of spirit, for each fold, being a condensation, seems to concentrate power in the thing folded. It becomes a spring, excruciatingly compressed—a reserve of power. Indeed, the nonobjective picture is a kind of coiled spring. Cubist painting first made folding a point of pictorial honor. In nonobjective painting per se, where there is no object to be forced inward, increasingly the problem has been to make sufficiently discreet use of folds so as to suggest a sense of the delicacy, as well as the power, of spirit.

Breder’s paintings, particularly the small ones, succeed at this task. While the gestures have a quiet urgency, the main fact of the work is the central rectangular passage—really a series of folds, a complication of edges implicitly proliferating ad infinitum, creating a sense of the picture as a depth, a zone of interiority. In his previous works, there is the same totalizing look, but there the geometrical complication generates a greater sense of drama. Here, the simple structure eschews drama in order to emphasize the silence of form; that is, to suggest that the geometrical order is inevitably implicated. There is enough painterliness to undermine static geometrical clarity, so that we do not get the stagnant blankness of a Josef Albers-type homage. Breder’s geometry is not mechanically given; there is a struggle to make it imply enfoldedness. The quiet intensity of this struggle is the precious pearl in these works. It makes them into a kind of chamber music.

Donald Kuspit

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